Upcycling Plastic in the Pearl of Africa

Engineers for Sustainable Energy Solutions (ESES) is a non-profit organization based in Kentucky founded by Jeffrey Seay, Professor of Chemical and Materials Engineering at the University of Kentucky College of Engineering Paducah Extended Campus.

The mission of ESES is to provide an innovative, sustainable, and community-based solution for addressing the global plastic waste crisis. 

The Plastic Pearl: How Plastic is Upcycled in the Pearl of Africa, produced by Ugandan filmmaker and journalist Joseph Buwule, explores a couple of different possibilities to upcycle plastic previously considered ‘waste’. 

Upcycle Africa, an NGO based in Mpigi, Uganda and partner of ESES, uses plastic bottles as building materials to construct homes and office spaces for communities in various parts of Africa. A multidisciplinary team from ESES including student volunteers and a UK faculty member traveled to Uganda in July 2021 to visit Upcycle Africa and implement their “Trash-to-Tank” technology.  This technology provides local community members with an appropriate solution to convert plastic waste collected from the environment into a liquid fuel oil.  This fuel can be used as a kerosene alternative in cookstoves and lamps, along with a variety of other uses.

Members from ESES have partnered with UK faculty, staff, and students on a Sustainability Challenge Grant project this year to bring their “Trash-to-Tank” technology to UK’s main campus! Their work will turn single-use plastic waste from UK Healthcare into fuel for use in UK Ground’s machinery.

Shelby Browning

1 comment

  • This is such a cool project with huge implications for our students and for solutions to growing global problem. Bravo!

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