Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
A budding entrepreneur in the recycling sector may be the first in the world to manufacture solar roofing tiles from scrap plastic and glass that are salvaged from the city’s waste collection sites and landfills.
The solar tiles are used to power households and are a cheaper, lighter and an eco-friendly option than the conventional roof tiles.
The entrepreneur, Mr Msindazwe Ndlovu, who is the managing director of Noble Savage says they were applying for a patent for the innovation.
“We have prototyped a solar roof tile, the first in Zimbabwe and Africa, there are other solar roof tiles made in other continents, but globally too we are the first to make a solar roof tile out of waste and we are now applying for a patent for it.
If you tile your roof, it generates power for your house,” he said.
Mr Ndlovu said the story of his innovation was revealed in a dream in 2017.
“My story is a bit funny in the sense that I had a dream where my mixtures and formulas were revealed to me.
I started developing them into a functional product.
I am not educated in energy or chemistry; I did marketing and I am now doing a degree in Internal Audit and another secondary degree in Software Development and Applied Technology,” said Mr Ndlovu.
The dream, he said, came after he visited his aunt and there was a hailstorm that blew the entire roof to her home.
“It was difficult. She exhibited pain, hurt and confusion at the same time.
I had never seen such heartbreak.
I felt no one must ever go through that.
After that ordeal and the dream, I started developing the idea of a roof tile that was extremely strong and that could withstand hail.
Our roof tiles are so strong that you can drive over it with a car and it will not be damaged,” said Mr Ndlovu.
He said at Noble Savage they recycle waste plastic and glass to manufacture eco-friendly building materials in an innovative way.
The vision of the company is to be the leading manufacturer of low-cost building materials that incorporate high technology to help Africa’s acceleration to clean renewable energy.
He said Zimbabwe produces 1.7 million tonnes of waste annually and has a housing shortage of 2.3 million.
“These are the challenges we are faced with as Zimbabwe but also opportunities available for us to grow our businesses.
We have sat down as a company to see how we can contribute to the Government’s economic Vision 2030 and our goal was to beneficiate waste to make strong durable products that can go into the market and compete competitively against your conventional concrete products,” said Mr Ndlovu.
As part of their products, they make roof tiles, kitchen counter-tops, paving blocks and the solar roof tile.
Noble Savage collects their waste from individuals, mostly vulnerable members of society, widows, the elderly who have dependents and a lot of unskilled people who are in the city who also collect for a fee.
They have created 60 jobs and process 40 tonnes of waste in a month.
The roof tiles manufactured at Noble Savage are 50 percent lighter than conventional roof tiles made of concrete.
“A concrete roof tile is between 48 to 52 kgs per square metre, ours are between 25 and 28kg per square metre.
They are also bigger, instead of using 12 per square metre you are using 5.5 per square metre.
Our roof tiles also have a 0.001 percent breakage rate compared to a 15 percent breakage rate of a concrete tile.
Again, our roof tiles are heat and cold insulated unlike the regular tiles, galvanised or asbestos ones.
Over and above, you save 30 percent of cost because you use 30 percent less timber when roofing, these are the advantages of our tiles,” said Mr Ndlovu.
He urged innovators and budding entrepreneurs to make use of readily available resources at their disposal.
“I started working at my parents’ backyard in Morningside and we would do our mixtures at night to avoid disturbing our neighbours because we would mix using fire.
Until a time we were able to move from the backyard to an industrial site.
We are looking at increasing our capacity as market response has been great,” said Mr Ndlovu.
Noble Savage was given rights to collect waste in the City of Bulawayo during Independence Celebrations and that afforded them the opportunity to get waste in large volumes, an excess of 2 tonnes of plastic polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
“It also enabled us to reduce litter in the city and move to becoming a world class city in the sense that we collect waste and send it to the landfill half the time.
If we are able to get individuals sorting from a household level that will be better. We are working on getting bins throughout the City of Bulawayo so that we sort waste from there, cans in their own bins, glass in its own bin and plastic in its own,” said Mr Ndlovu.