Jay CabozBy Jay Caboz|May 5, 2021|7 Minutes|In Billionaire Tomorrow

Billionaire Tomorrow

How a company in South Africa is turning useless plastic waste into profit

Plastic is going to be one of the great albatrosses of the uncertain world we live in. There are mounds of it floating in the sea killing fish, there are piles of it choking our rivers - now an African entrepreneur has come up with a way of putting it into cement. .

Mountains of plastic stand as tall as the rafters in a factory in Blackheath, in the industrial heart of Cape Town. It’s all there. The waste of modern life: chip packets, bottles, trays, sandwich cartons, hay barrel covers and straws that have been sucked on once and then tossed away.

The plastic comes from the frontline of the growing tide of rubbish choking African cities like Cape Town: shopping malls, rivers and beaches. Thrown down and left to rot – the problem is, it doesn’t.

People see piles of useless waste; we see an opportunity to build South Africa says Deon Robbertze. He is the Business Development Director of the Centre for Regenerative Design and Collaboration (CRDC) who believes waste plastic is a resource.


Behind the doors of this nondescript warehouse, CRDC South Africa pilot plant Manager Andre Jameson runs a hard working team turning plastic that nobody wants into a commodity that people do.

“In South Africa we have got approximately 1 million tons of waste plastic going into landfill each year. It’s insane. [We] process the plastic waste and it comes out looking like grey concrete-coloured kitty litter,” says Robbertze.

The kitty litter-like substance could go a long way toward helping the world rid itself of the plastic plague that can take hundreds of years to degrade.

“We get the plastic. We shed it up into flakes. We add our additives. It goes through an extruder. It comes out into a water bath where it cools down and then we granulate it into the 6 millimetre aggregate.”

They call it Resin8 and once granulated it is used as a building material known as a lightweight concrete aggregate modifier. In English this means it can replace the sand or the aggregate you use to mix with concrete. It can be used to make anything from concrete bricks to pillars.

“If you look at [plastic] at some stage, you can’t keep recycling them. At a certain point, the plastic loses its integrity and can’t be used. We are not here to compete against the existing plastics recycling industry in South Africa. We are here to compliment them. To take all the plastic that they can’t recycle,” said Robbertze.

The product appears to be a hit in the construction industry. The company says it decreases weight, increases strength, and increases the thermal properties of the product.

“If you take a standard concrete block, your M190 block, add 5-10% of Resin8 into that concrete mix – it increases the strength, decreases the weight and improves the thermal properties of the block by up to 30%, said Robbertze. “The thermal saving is a huge thing. We are busy with a Lifestyle Carbon Assessment because there will be a C02 reduction saving over the lifespan of the house

“We are not here to compete against the existing plastics recycling industry in South Africa. We are here to compliment them. To take all the plastic that they can’t recycle,”


Said Deon Robbertze, Director of Communications Centre for Regenerative Design and Collaboration.

According to Robbertze, there is zero plastic leakage from any of the concrete products.

“In 50 years’ time when you want to break down that same house, and you want to crush that concrete product, you can make a new concrete product out of it with the Resin8 still in. There is no end of life.”

CDRC was founded 10 years ago by Donald Thompson in Costa Rica. Thompson thought up the idea while he was picking up a vast amount of plastic in a volunteer beach clean up.  By 2019, the company decided to set up shop in Cape Town.

Which is why we are standing now in the pilot factory where a handful of people work and 20 tons of plastic waste is piled up. The project caught the eye of investors and in 2020 was awarded a Dow Business Impact Fund Award worth $100,000 to accelerate the project. The funding will help CRDC SA build 21 new plants in South Africa, which Robbertze says will be operating at full capacity within five years and processing 250,000 tons a year.

Of this, about 40% of the plastic waste used in these plants will be sourced from informal settlements, where waste management is a huge problem, especially when it lands up in rivers.

The good news is CDRC has already tested the quality of the plastic that ends up in Cape Town’s rivers. In partnership with local waste collection initiative the Litterboom Project, they found that the plastic picked up in Cape Town’s Black River was able to be re-used and turned into Resin8.

This will go a long way toward alleviating Cape Town’s massive waste problem which according to the City of Cape Town, costs 10 times more to clean up than if you had put the plastic in the bin in the first place.

Their latest project is to make bricks destined for 4,000 new RDP houses to be built by Martin & East, one of the oldest civil engineering companies in South Africa.

The building blocks of the future, less useless plastic and more useful cement.