Lorna Rutto Fellow 2012
Living in: Nairobi — Kenya
Venture: EcoPost, Sustainable Living.
Eco-friendly plastic lumber that provides a waste management solution and an alternative to timber while creating jobs.
Operating in: Sub-Saharan Africa
Impact Area: Children and Youth, Clean and Green Technology, Climate...
"A thought leader, change maker and a social entrepreneur passionate about environmental excellence & eradicating poverty"
Describe yourself briefly.
Lorna dreams of a world where everyone has access to basic amenities such as food, water, shelter, security and environment. Born in Kaptembwa Slums in Kenya, her childhood experience was of extreme poverty, rotting waste in her surrounding, clogged sewers, criminal activities and unemployment. As a hobby, she would melt plastic litter in school, make ornaments and sell to other pupils for some little money. After graduating in commerce with difficulties,she got a well paying job at a bank but she resigned because it was not fulfilling. She's passionate about eradicating the poverty by creating job opportunities for the poor marginalized Kenyans. She took the entrepreneurial plunge and conceived Ecopost in 2009, a business that utilizes waste plastic to manufacture plastic lumber and posts which provides an alternative to timber. So far she has created over 300 jobs, generated $USD 120,000 in revenue in a year, saved over 250 acres of forests and withdrawn over 1,000,000 kg of plastic waste from the environment. She is the 2011 Sub-Saharan Africa Cartier Laureate. She won the 2010 Bid Network Nature Challenge Award, 2010 SEED Award and the 2009 Enablis Business Award.
Describe your Unreasonable Venture in 100 words or less.
Kenya faces the triple challenge of reducing poverty in line with its MDG commitments, managing its municipal solid waste and conserving its forests. EcoPost recycles waste plastic to manufacture durable plastic lumber which is used instead of wood for various applications such as fencing posts, sign posts, building and construction etc. These has reduced poverty by creating over 300 jobs to the youth and women who are marginalized and the business model will create over 100,000 jobs in the next 15 years. EcoPost has also eliminated over 1,000,000 Kgs of waste from the environment, sold over 20,000 posts thus saving over 250 Acres of forest and made over $USD 120,000 in revenue.
Ecopost generates enough revenue to cover its production costs and overheads and is already profitable with zero debt. We have more demand than we can supply thus need to expand. We are targeting the current contracts to fence game reserves and forests in Kenya worth millions of dollars. 200 km of Aberdares forest was recently fenced with plastic posts worth millions of $USD. Our posts are priced based on kilos of raw material. Our unit production cost is US$ 0.49 /KG and the selling price is US$ 0.82 /KG.
Describe your relevant experience (especially entrepreneurial).
Lorna is an inspirational leader and has a track record of achieving outstanding results whether at corporate or community level. She holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Accounting and various Certificates in Entrepreneurship. Lorna has a proven ability to leverage a wider network of key customers, suppliers, partners and financiers, all crucial to business creation and success. She is the co-founder of ASI, http://asi.co.ke/ and has also worked for 2 years at Imperial bank in Kenya before co-founding EcoPost. She brings on board skills in management and business development. She advocates Execution and Integrity as a discipline within a framework " These are values that organizations and leaders cannot afford to do without if they are to be sustainable; making a distinctive contribution today and in the future'. Lorna's passion & leadership skills has accelerated EcoPost into success. She's the 2011 Sub-Saharan Africa Cartier Laureate. She also won the 2010 Bid Network Nature Challenge Award, 2010 SEED Award and the 2009 Enablis Business launch pad competition. She has developed a community engagement program whereby she works with youth and women group who are marginalized.
Why is your team uniquely qualified to run this venture?
EcoPost has a very strong and capable team.
Charles Kalama, is the co- founder & Technical Director of EcoPost who oversees all operations of the org. He holds a 1st Class Honours, Master of Engineering degree in Biochemical from University College London. He has performed highly specialized design, research and analysis on plastic extrusion and refurbishing of machinery and has a strong track record in improving profitability and productivity. He is the 2010 IChem E Innovator of the year.
Eric Tim Onyonka is our Chief Strategist Officer. He holds a business degree from the University of Sheffield and brings his deep industry knowledge & great connections. He is involved in making key strategic plans for the org.
Jessica Cherotich holds a Communications degree from Daystar University and is in charge of all the PR, communication and HR work in the org.
Japheth Kitemi is holds a Diploma in Electrical Engineering and he foresees all the electrical work.
Wanja Getambu- Kiragu, EcoPost Advisor holds a Finance degree & a Masters of Business Administration from the United States International University. She carries out internal Auditing & Financial Analysis for EcoPost.
What is the urgent social or environmental need you're addressing?
Kenya faces the triple challenge of managing its municipal solid waste, conserving its forests and reducing poverty in line with its MDG commitments.
Every single day in Kenya we generate 10,000+ tones of garbage, 20% of which is plastic. Most of this is crudely dumped, littering the street, clogging the sewer and even encroaching people’s homes. This is compounded by inadequate policing rules, economic pressures, reluctant administrators and absence of viable disposal options.
Only 2% of Kenya’s land mass is covered by forests owing to human settlement, land grabbing and illegal logging. About 222,000 acres of the Mau forest, Kenya’s largest indigenous forest has been destroyed. Over 50% of our youth in Kenya are unemployed or underemployed (Kenya National Bureau)
What is your solution to this need? Describe your business strategy.
We are a social enterprise founded in 2009 with an aim to tackle the issues above. Our vision is “To Transform Africa’s Waste into Wealth”. We use waste plastic as a resource to manufacture aesthetic,durable (rot and termite resistance), easy to use and environmentally friendly plastic lumber.
Our aim is to create a sustainable solution to the growing plastic waste menace, provide a suitable alternative material so that we reduce the cutting down of trees and create job opportunities to reduce poverty.
The plastic lumber is made from 100% recycled plastic and they range from 2 to 6 inches cross section (square/round) and 20 ft length depending on the clients need. It has various applications, it can be used as fence posts, sign posts, houses support beams, roofing trusses e.t.c
Convince us it will work. What milestones have you achieved?
Through recycling we convert an otherwise waste product into a myriad of useful products. Since 2010 we have withdrawn over 1 million kgs of plastic from the environment. Having sold 10,000+ posts and generated over US$ 80,000 in revenues, our approach offers a viable and sustainable solution to tackling the plastic menace.
By providing an alternative to timber we conserve our forests & maintaining them as water catchments areas. Forests act as carbon sinks by removing CO2 from the atmosphere hence mitigating climate change. Having withdrawn and utilize 1 million kgs of plastic, we’ve saved around 250 Acres of forest.
We’ve created 20 direct jobs and over 300 indirectly jobs for the marginalized youth and women thus improving their life. Our staff earn 1.5 times the minimum wage.