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Innovative Ethiopian startup turns plastic waste into affordable housing solution

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An Ethiopian startup has made a groundbreaking move to tackles two pressing environmental issues simultaneously. The Ethiopian startup, Kubik, has then gone ahead to secure $1.9 million in fresh funding to scale up its cutting-edge plastic waste upcycling operations – a way it intends to tackle the pressing environmental issues with. This newly raised funds comes as an addition to the $3.34 million seed funds raised in 2023.

Kubik’s ingenious approach transforms discarded plastics into affordable, low-carbon building materials, providing a sustainable solution to the global plastic pollution crisis while addressing the urgent need for affordable housing.

The seed extension round, led by African Renaissance Partners, Endgame Capital, and King Philanthropies, comes hot on the heels of Kubik’s initial equity investment earlier this year. The influx of capital will fuel the startup’s expansion plans in Addis Ababa, where its newly launched factory is already diverting thousands of kilograms of plastic waste from landfills daily.

What we want to do is solve problems for cities and so, we’re thinking about our business model being truly circular. The way we’ve set up our business strategy, is that now we’re in the focus phase of proving this model here in Ethiopia. We’ll expand it to a few more markets to prove the diversity of the context in which this business model can work. But over time, what we actually want to do is transition to becoming a company that’s licensing out this technology,” Kidus Asfaw, co-founder and CEO of Kubik, said.

Kubik’s innovative process upcycles plastic waste into durable, interlocking construction components like bricks, columns, beams, and jambs. According to Asfaw, these materials allow developers to erect walls without the need for cement, aggregates, or steel, speeding up construction and reducing costs by at least 40% per square meter compared to traditional methods.

Read also: Bolt partners M-Kopa to rev up electric motorcycle revolution in Kenya

The startup’s products have undergone rigorous safety testing by the European standards agency Intertek, ensuring they meet stringent standards for strength, toxicity, and flammability. “We don’t want to be selling something harmful to human beings,” Asfaw emphasized, highlighting Kubik’s commitment to responsible innovation.

With the ability to process up to 45,000 kilograms of plastic waste per day, Kubik has established partnerships with corporations and the Addis Ababa municipality to secure a steady supply of raw materials. The startup plans to diversify its product line further, exploring pavers and flooring materials as it prepares for pan-African expansion by 2025.

As cities across the continent grapple with the dual challenges of plastic pollution and a shortage of affordable housing, Kubik’s pioneering solution presents a promising path forward. By transforming waste into sustainable building blocks, the startup is paving the way for a greener, more livable future for urban dwellers across Africa and beyond.

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When I'm not reading about tech, I'm writing about it, or thinking about the next weird food combinations to try. I do all these with my headphones plugged in, and a sticky note on my computer with the words: "The galaxy needs saving, Star Lord."
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