Added: Feb 15, 2021
Last edited: Mar 01, 2023
Hya Bioplastics produces biodegradable consumer packaging from plant fibres such as maize husks, sugar cane bagasse and water hyacinth.
The water hyacinth is an invasive species, covering about 20,000 hectares of Lakes Victoria, Albert and Kyoga in Uganda. It blocks waterways, causing eutrophication. It affects water quality and aquatic life and contributes to the spread of disease. It has even caused power outages through clogging of hydroelectric power plant intakes. However, it also has unique properties. If combined with certain biodegradable components it can be used to produce packaging products and can serve as a viable alternative to plastics. Similarly, agricultural waste with packaging potential is also usually disposed of in applications that fetch low value to farmers, such as composting and, in some cases, burning.
Hya Bioplastics produces biodegradable packaging from plant fibres. Their current range of products is made from plantbased agricultural waste. Currently, Hya Bioplastics uses maize husks and sugar cane bagasse for their products, but they are trialling water hyacinth as the major feedstock for future production of plastic alternatives. The main challenge relates to the logistics of collecting sufficient volumes of water hyacinth to process. The packaging materials are biodegradable and compostable. Hya Bioplastics aims to track and collect used packages at centralised points. The waste packages can then be used to produce compost for the cassava farmers in their supply chain. In addition, some of the waste packaging can be combined with other components to produce briquettes. Hya Bioplastics has received support from the Mechanical Engineering department at Makerere, mentoring advice from Mike Werner, head of circular economy at Google, and input from Alysia Garmulewicz, founder of Materiom. The initiative is the first-place winner of the Wege prize 2020 and one of the winners of the Texas A&M University Invent for the Planet 2020 prize.
This case study has been created as part of Footprints Africa's work to build the first ever comprehensive mapping of circular economy initiatives in Africa. This will lay the foundation open-source database that can inspire local initiatives, as well as inform the global dialogue, which is largely focused on the European and American contexts. We are doing this in collaboration with the African Circular Economy Network (ACEN). ACEN's vision is to build a restorative African economy that generates well-being and prosperity inclusive of all its people through new forms of economic production and consumption which maintain and regenerate its environmental resources.
The objective is to build an open-source database featuring 500 cases by the end of 2021, with strong regional representation. These will feature in the Knowledge Hub and are also being mapped by GRID-Arendal.
Prioritise regenerative resources
Design for the future
Design for cyclability
Alternative bio-based materials and inputs
Design for bio-degradability