Charles Mankhwazi: Transforming waste into clean energy

Charles Mankhwazi on the far left talking to the previous Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Bright Msaka

It is common to see heaps of rubbish in the marketplace which is usually disposed off in rubbish pits. It is this waste which later becomes a health and environment hazard to people within the market vicinity. Charles Mankhwazi a Lilongwe resident who is only 21 years old, has seen an opportunity to make a product out of such waste. Mankhwazi is currently running a renewable energy social enterprise called Chucks Enterprises which specialises in manufacturing eco-briquettes made from biomass waste material as well as papers. Mankhwazi started in March of 2017 on a small-scale basis conducting tests of the products, with the aim of creating a durable product.

Mankhwazi collects waste material such as organic waste, biomass waste such as sawdust and other waste that can be reusable. This waste is collected from households and particularly in markets where waste material is scattered all over market premises.

Collected waste paper

Charcoal dust is also collected from charcoal sellers in the market and this waste collection exercise has essentially helped to clean up the markets which would have been rife with waste material. In essence, the waste material is sorted by dividing what is usable for briquettes and what is classified as non-usable. Nonetheless, the non-usable waste is thrown away on behalf of the markets which could have been filthy with non-recyclable waste.

Mankhwazi’s waste collection radius covers nearly all the markets in Area 47 and 49. They also collect waste from some markets in Area 23 and they are plans to expand their reach to markets in Area 25 which is a densely-populated area. Area 25 has a lot of markets and is potentially a hot-bed for waste such as charcoal dust and wood shavings because residents usually buy charcoal and firewood from these markets.

Organisations and companies also provides Mankhwazi with waste paper from their offices. Lilongwe Wildlife Centre and UNICEF are some of the organisations which offer waste paper plus other stationery shops as well.

Mankhwazi has a vision where he wants to install appointed agents in markets who can sort the waste before they pick it up. Furthermore, he also has plans to provide bins in the market where waste can be thrown in the appropriate bins for collection.

As Mankhwazi progressed with his market clean-up activities, some people in the markets got curious with Mankhwazi’s operations. As soon as some people in the market found out that the waste was being used to create a product, they began charging a fee to collect the waste. Mankhwazi remembers:

“Initially when we started, people gave us the waste for free because it was waste. We just offered them a service to collect the waste for free. When they discovered that we have a productive use of this waste and that we are adding value to it, they started charging. Now that they see we are collecting more and more waste, the value charged for the waste is also increasing. A 50 kg bag which used to cost 300 Kwacha now costs 500 Kwacha. This is for most of the waste. Other waste such as sawdust and papers are relatively cheaper”

Chucks Enterprises has two products namely, Bio-char premium briquettes and paper-eco briquettes. Mankhwazi explained that “the briquettes which have gotten a lot of feedback from communities are the bio-char briquettes, probably because of the colour as it resembles that of charcoal”. Another appealing factor of the Bio-char premium briquettes is that they can be used in any other stove which makes it easy for people to adopt briquettes from charcoal.

Mnkhwazi’s products on display at the launch of the National Cleaner Cooking Awareness Campaign

The briquettes have received overwhelming feedback from communities who have tried the products. Communities have embraced the briquettes even more so when they learn of the advantages they have in relation to the adverse effects caused by environmental degradation.

A charcoal stove using Bio-char premium briquettes

The briquettes are being sold on a small scale as they are still incorporating feedbacks from users so they can continue to alter their product to suit varied consumer demands. However, Chucks Enterprises is seeking to expand its market reach to retailers where their products can be sold alongside imported briquettes. Chucks Enterprises is also acquiring new machinery and also looking for external funding as they are scaling up to familiarise their product with Malawians.