March 12, 2024

How this Ethiopian founder is converting plastic waste into low-carbon building materials

Ahead of joining us at the HackSummit, Kidus shares the journey behind Kubik, an African new materials startup.

Over 7 billion tonnes of plastic waste has been generated globally. Yet less than 10% of it has been recycled.

Meanwhile cement contributes to 8% of worldwide CO2 emissions.

Driven to solve a dual emergency, one startup has emerged with a bold solution to tackle both of these issues head-on. 

By transforming plastic waste into low-cost, low-carbon building materials.

Enter, Kubik.

From growing up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to working in cities around the world, Kubik’s Founder, Kidus Asfaw has had a front row seat to watch the dramatic transformation of global cities. 

He tells us: 

''In one way, they have become a melting pot for new ideas, culture, and innovation.

In another, they have become the driving engine for Earth’s unprecedented acceleration towards a changing climate. 

And as a father of three, I felt a conviction to leverage the potential of these exciting cities to solve both their immediate problems (plastic, affordability, climate change) and reimagine the future for my children and their generation."

Building better, building greener

Kubik develops interlocking building materials, including bricks, columns and beams so that developers can erect walls without the need for cement, aggregates, and steel.

Their materials are half the cost, twice the speed to build with, and five times less polluting than conventional cement-based building materials. 

Without compromising on the safety, durability, and structural integrity the market expects from these products.

Turning plastic waste into an opportunity

When Kidus first set about finding ways to tackle the scalability of collecting plastic waste, he found two problems:

- Limited infrastructure in the plastic waste supply chain 

- Limited demand for hard-to-recycle plastic waste (polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene)

Kubik has now figured out how to upcycle the majority of hard-to-recycle plastics in their product and continue to innovate on using more - generating models for others to use the technology globally. 

The startup is also finding ways to work with municipalities and social enterprises to build out the infrastructure in the supply chain.

From strategic collection points for waste pickers to sell feedstock to stronger corporate partnerships with plastic waste producing sectors. 

Growing towards 45,000kg per day in Ethiopia alone.

Following their recent $3.34M funding round, Kubik is poised to scale across Africa, backed by Plug and Play, Bestseller Foundation, GIIG Africa Fund, Satgana, Unruly Capital, Savannah Fund, African Renaissance Partners, Kazana Fund, Princeton Alumni Angels, and Andav Capital.

Collaboration for long-term success

Their business model inherently relies on partnerships with waste management and real estate sectors, working tightly with industry leaders in plastic waste recycling to ensure feedstock supply.

While also working with real estate developers on long term relationships to supply materials for their projects. 

This model helps them focus on their value add while de-risking exposure to volatility in the waste and real estate sectors.

Expect to see one-of-its-kind partnerships blooming with notable real estate firms in the near future. 

Join Kidus at the HackSummit, in Lausanne on June 13-14th where he’ll take to the stage to share the principles that the Kubik team have been guided by through their startup journey. Use code EARLYBIRD20 to save 20% on your pass.