With everything that’s happening with the environment these days, it is undeniable that climate change is real. Countless companies are making efforts to improve the current state of our climate and there are many startups, which are also contributing in their own way. ClimateLaunchpad is the world’s largest green startup competition, which recognises such startups and their accomplishments. Last year, Kenyan startup Leafy Ke won the prestigious climate competition with its innovative idea to generate fuel from used diapers.
Most people would be amused to hear that disposable diapers can be recycled to make fuel. Leafy Ke figured out an economical way to do so, and generate clean fuel in the process that produces notably less CO2. It sells its fuel to informal settlements for €1.2 per litre and this also lowers the risk of death by carbon-dioxide poisoning cases at homes.
In a conversation with Leafy Ke’s Chief Operating Officer, Peter Gachanja, we find out more about the startup, how it works, and what’s in store for the future.
Silicon Canals: What is Leafy Ke all about and how do you make fuel from diapers?
Peter Gachanja: Leafy Ke is a startup founded by three guys who love science and now we create clean fuel through diapers used in formal settlement homes. We first collect diapers, clean them and then process them to develop the fuel that can be used in homes.
Silicon Canals: How does this process work, from a technical point of view?
Peter Gachanja: We reverse-engineered the diaper itself to figure out what they are actually made of. They are a mix of plastic, cotton and a small amount of chemical also used to help with absorption. The main challenge was; how to tear it apart and use each part individually to make something more effective. Eventually, we figured out how to use each part individually to make different things. For example, the plastic extracted from the diapers can be used to make building blocks for houses.
Silicon Canals: What is the secret of making flammable fuel from a diaper?
Peter Gachanja: Well, the cotton used in diapers is a flammable material and is re-used for making clean fuel. Basically, our formula enables the fuel to burn cleanly so that there’s no smoke or carbon monoxide emitted.
Silicon Canals: What problem is being solved with your innovation?
Peter Gachanja: In rural areas, people use inexpensive fuel like charcoal and firewood and it causes extreme indoor pollution. And that’s our target audience right now.
There are almost 2 million people living in Kibera, which is home to one of the biggest slums in Africa, where almost every household uses polluting fuel. And this is just one major slum! Similarly, there are various slums in almost every major African city. Now, with our perfect mix fuel that burns cleanly with no carbon monoxide emission and notably low CO2 emissions, it’s a dream come true.
Silicon Canals: How many items have been sold and did you get external funding?
Peter Gachanja: We sold a lot of fuel. There are lots of people in business who need our clean fuel, for example, bakers, they need a cleaner way to light up their ovens.
Meanwhile, the only funding we’ve received so far is from ClimateLaunchPad competitions. Otherwise, we are mostly self-funded. So far, we have not raised any funding yet but we would love to receive funding for next level progress.
Do you want to join 2020’s competition with your green business idea? Check www.climatelaunchpad.org