Building a brighter future

Building a brighter future

South Africa’s first community polystyrene brick making factory, using recycled polystyrene, has opened its doors in Atlantis outside Cape Town. The Khaya Khanya Atlantis Lightweight Concrete Factory is the first franchise of many that will be established in municipalities around South Africa over the next five years.

The factory is expected to process and recycle a minimum of 25 tonnes of polystyrene per month and will help to grow its recycling rate by at least 5% within the first year. According to Adri Spangenberg, the polystyrene executive at Polyco, this has been a dream come true for the polystyrene industry after seven years of planning, discussions with key role-players and efforts to get the necessary funding approved.

Developed and patented by Hilton Cowie, the Envirolite Concrete bricks and screeds are manufactured using a combination of recycled polystyrene and a special cement aggregate. These bricks are being used to build everything ranging from RDP houses, clinics and shopping malls to commercial buildings and designer homes. An 80m2 RDP house, for example, contains a minimum of 550 kg of polystyrene.

“Hilton proved that his bricks are waterproof, fireproof and offer excellent insulation against cold, heat and sound,” Spangenberg points out. “The building process is easier, faster and cheaper, plus it uses the waste removed from the community in a positive way that offers long-term benefits. The tremendous growth experienced in the demand for these bricks made us realise that we could roll out factories on a large scale by establishing polystyrene recycling hubs in impoverished communities where the waste crisis, housing backlogs and unemployment figures are at their worst.”

The Polystyrene Association of SA appointed Caban Investments as its corporate advisor and implementor. Tasked with the responsibility of developing a detailed business plan and sales strategy, Caban also assisted with raising the capital required for the first factory and helped to identify the local entrepreneurs who will be driving this project. It came up with a business model that sees each factory being a franchise modelled on sound business principles. The structure sees the entrepreneur, the community, investors and the franchisors as stakeholders in the project.

Cindy Orange has been appointed as CEO of Khaya Khanya Atlantis, supported by her father, Dr Michael Adams (project manager), brother John Adams (chief operating officer) and sister Liesle Humbles (office administrator). Envirolite and Caban are the franchisors and remain involved in mentoring the entrepreneurs in all aspects of business development and technical support.

“We love the passion of the community,” says Spangenberg. “We want them to take ownership of their own waste by keeping their area clean with organised collections, actively being involved in the recycling process, creating jobs for their own people and benefiting from a world-class product that will improve their lives for generations to come. We are very privileged to have found the ideal partners in the Adams family – much loved and respected members of the local community who will be running and managing the Khaya Khanya Atlantis Lightweight Concrete Factory.”

Speaking at the official launch of Khaya Khanya Atlantis, Orange said that unemployment and gangsterism are two of the biggest problems facing Atlantis. The situation has been significantly exacerbated by the Covid pandemic, when many people lost their jobs and resorted to crime to survive. Children were forced to quit school and go to work to help their families.

“Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine that we would be involved with such an amazing product and opportunity. Directly translated, Khaya Khanya means ‘light house’ in Xhosa. Not only is it a play on words in that we are going to be building homes made from special lightweight bricks, but we believe we are bringing light and hope to our community. We are more than ready to move forward with this exciting new project that will not only create employment, but also help to educate and equip those who will become a part of this business venture,” says Orange.

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