Be the change you want to see in the world, right? That’s exactly what South African sisters, Kedibone and Kekeletso Tsiloane decided to be when they took a leap of faith and launched their sustainable plastic brick company, Ramtsilo.
Young, female, and black, they came to disrupt and disrupt they did. These sisters took the conventional brick that dates back thousands of years and thought, ‘nah, we can do better’. When you realize that plastics can take up to 1000 years to decompose, you’re ready to start finding ways to recycle all the plastic that’s out there instead of seeing it end up in landfills or worse, in our oceans.
The result? Ramtsilo… Home of the brick that is 30% recycled plastic, fire retardant, energy-efficient, uses less water to manufacture, limits cracks on walls and increases the overall lifespan of a building. Ramtsilo’s mission is to provide a sustainable solution to plastic waste pollution and their company is also the first to make plastic bricks in South Africa, according to News24.
My sister is also quite strict about litter – even growing up, she was one of those people who would tidy up after others,” Kekeletso told BizNews. “We realized that we want to do something in the plastic recycling space – but also stick to what we know, which is construction. We then looked at how we can use plastic in the manufacturing of our bricks. This went on for about a year until we built something we were comfortable with and decided to take for product testing.”
“We’ve got the maxi, stock and the pavers. For the pavers, we’ve got about 20% plastic – and this is because of the required strength of the product, according to the standards. Then with the maxi and stock bricks, it’s about 30% plastic,” Kekeletso noted.
Today, their waste recycling plant employs 50 waste pickers in South Africa’s Free State and Gauteng provinces. According to the sisters, they have been able to create direct employment for the people who work at their factory.
“The informal waste pickers, this sort of formalizes their job, because they do one of the most undignified jobs out there. But they’re actually the initiators of an economy,” according to Kekeletso. “They’re the people who ensure that we recycle by collecting that waste. We are very proud to be working with them and creating a livelihood for them through the manufacturing of our bricks.”
The sisters have also landed a major partnership with building material retailer Builders Warehouse. “When Builders Warehouse heard of us, it was while we’re still very much in the startup phase – our capacity at the time was so low,” Kekeletso said. “When we sat with them they said, ‘that’s fine, we’ll grow with you. But we need to get to a point where your product is at a certain level to be in the store.’”
Their products went through testing which helped them to learn some of the testing requirements that are out there.
“Having it on the Builders Warehouse shelves – granted, it’s still growing because our capacity is still growing, so it’s still a few stores – but we are growing with the brand to make sure that our footprint is spread out as much as possible,” she noted
As children, they spent their days observing their father on-site at his construction company. Today, we observe them as they innovate, change the world one brick at a time and build a better future.