Meet the Yoda of plastic waste recycling

May of last year marked a brave leap into environmental consciousness for  Burkina Faso. Its government banned the production, import, manufacturing and distribution of non biodegradable plastic bags, giving the nation 6 months to discard of such material.

Although this created uproar with many citizens in the plastic business, one self driven man kept calm and continued to create innovative methods around plastic bag litter management.

Philippe Yoda, an Afrolutionist hailing from Ouagadougou Burkina Faso has mastered the art in plastic bag recycling, creating aesthetically pleasing ornaments. He is the founder of the Association pour l’Innovation et la Recherche Technologique Appropriée en Environnement (AIRTAE) (translated to the Association for Innovation and Appropriate Technology Research in Environment). His organization core aims to spread his process of recycling once banned plastic bags, breathing life into this non-biodegradable product.

Yoda reveals that his idea ignited back in 1983, when he was a sheep subsistence farmer. Unfortunately one of his livestock died which led him to believe it was poisoned. When they opened the sheep’s belly, multiple plastic bags oozed right out of its stomach. Realizing that subsistence farming is a generic form of income for many dwellers in the area, he created what is known today as AIRTAE.

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Phillipe with an employee creating recycled tiles

Yoda has developed a simple yet effective process of recycling which enables him to create useful material for the household. The process begins with collecting plastic bags then sorting them before washing. The bags are then ground and melted through gas heat. The melted product is then poured into molded structures and transformed into various products such as tables, benches, floor tiles, cobblestones, road signs, water meter boxes and tiles.

Today, AIRTAE garners well over 75 people who aid in the recycling process, including a center for training in recovery of plastic waste. AIRTAE has also acquired various organizations across  Ouagadougou that help in waste collection, creating a cleaner and greener city.

Yoda’s efforts in obtaining a greener Burkina Faso have sparked attention globally, awarding him with a gold medal of the International Exhibition of Innovation, organised by the World Intellectual Property Organization. Nationally, his country recognised his efforts through awarding him with the “President du Faso” Prize worth €3,048 (2 million CFA francs) for his plastic recycling process at the 8th edition of the Forum de la Recherche Scientifique et de l’Innovation Technologique. He also received a €1,524 (1 million CFA francs) prize from the Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Industrielle (OAPI).

Hopefully, with time and hard work, Yoda’s recycling process will ripple throughout the African diaspora.