Interview with Nelson Boateng, founder of Nelplast, a company that recycles plastic waste into bricks

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Nelson Boateng was born and raised in Ashiaman, a suburb of Ghana’s capital, Accra.

After his secondary education, he didn’t move straight into tertiary education but decided to work for some time. So, he got a job in a plastic manufacturing company which made poly bags, plastic bowls, rubber buckets, among others.

Nelson, as industrious as he has always been, worked with the company for eight years and rose to become a manager. During this period, he took a diploma course in Network Engineering.

How Neplast started?

While managing the plastic company, a situation arose between the owners of the company that eventually led to its dissolution. But for someone who has been interested in entrepreneurship since age 14, it became an opportunity to set the stage for his dreams to become a reality.

Nelson decided not to enter any industry other than the one he already knew—plastics. He set up a company in 2014 and named it Nelplast Limited which also started producing polybags and other plastics.

“I was not satisfied doing the same thing over and over again,” he said. “I wanted to change the direction of the business and do something innovative that will tend to solve a problem in the community.

So, I began reading and researching on what other things plastics can be used for that will be friendly to the environment. That was when I came up with a unique paste which is a mixture of sand and plastics to make bricks. Now having discovered what I wanted to do, I moved straight into it.”

How did the transition happen?

“Through my own ingenuity, I developed a machine for manufacturing the bricks. From that machine, I can produce bricks, floor tiles, roof tiles, and blocks. The amazing thing is that the bricks can even be used for construction of roads.”

To test to bricks on a road, he said he decided to use some on the Tema-Akosombo road, which had some parts damaged. He replaced the damaged asphalt with pavement bricks made from his plastic bricks, and it has forever remained strong, even stronger than the asphalt.

How many people work for you?

“I have created a lot of job opportunities; about 500 people have got jobs by supplying us plastic bottles and sachet bags. We shred these plastic waste materials with a machine and mix it with sand to make the bricks.”

Marketing strategy

The main mode of reaching people with the message of his innovation is through social media. He has accounts on Facebook and Instagram loaded with pictures and information about his products where potential clients can contact him.

His innovative product has earned him recognition in the country and even across Africa. Quite recently, Nelplast was contacted by Ghana’s Ministry of Environment, Science, and Technology to help build its capacity technically and financially so it can expand and impact more positively on the environment.

Where you want Neplast to be in the next few years?

“We want to enter into the international market, especially the African continent, so it can address what has become a continental canker of plastic waste harming the environment.”

What are some of the Challenges you face?

“With such a big project and a big vision for Nelplast Limited, it cannot come without challenges. One of our main challenges is what is common to all startups—financial constraints. Because of this challenge, we are not able to produce to meet the market demand which is ever increasing.”

Also, a sad challenge, Nelson added, is the mindset of people who believe that locally produced goods are not quality and will resort to patronising foreign products, which is very discouraging to entrepreneurs.

What can the government do to help?

With funding being the crippling factor of every startup, Nelplast is no different. Nelson believes government can help start-ups with some funding or at least create avenues that make it easy for start-ups to access funds at a cheap cost so they can run sustainable businesses.

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