Piles of trash and abandoned objects line the roads into Keur Moussa, a town north of Dakar in Senegal. In a bid to clean up the countryside, some residents started working with an NGO to pick up old, abandoned tyres and use them to build houses and designer furniture.
3000 Ecomen is an NGO whose mission is to work sustainably, without consuming energy. Their newest flagship project is to turn old tyres into useful building materials. They use them as foundations for new homes made out of recycled materials. They’ve also built many benches, which now adorn college campuses and several official buildings. But volunteers have also used recycled tyres to make more whimsical objects… like headboards and flower pots.
"I want people to understand that nothing is lost, everything can be reused and recycled!"
Recycling is a hot topic in Senegal, with all of the news about plastic bags, or as we say in Wolof, “mbous” [Editor’s note: Plastic bags were banned in Senegal on January 4].
But people here do little to reuse rubbish. There are a few recycling companies, like Proplast, which makes basins from recycled rubbish, but mostly, we have a culture of throwing away used things. Senegalese people don’t understand that nothing is lost, everything can be reused and recycled! But it’s hard to explain that to people who are used to not just throwing away things but littering.Some of these benches have been set up in playgrounds and parks in Senegal.
In Keur Moussa, we mostly work with tyres because so many of them are discarded alongside roads once they are damaged. Tyres make an excellent building material for house foundations because they counterbalance any movement and they can support up to 70 tonnes.
To build a solid foundation, we dig trenches and then fill them with tyres and other pieces of plastic debris, some dirt and a little bit of concrete. We used this method to build a community centre for talibés [Editor’s note: children studying in Koranic schools in Thiès.]
Ousmane estimates that 3000 Ecomen has built seven buildings and about 100 benches from tyres. Volunteers can end up using up to 400 recycled tyres on just one building site.
Using tyres as part of your interior design may seem crazy. But we’ve been able to make really funky, designer furniture at a low cost using these tyres. We’ve also made a lot of benches and flower pots.Volunteers make funky, stylish headboards and bedframes out of recycled tyres and glass bottles.Once the project is finished, you can’t even tell that bottles and tyres were used.
The project that I am most proud of is all the benches built by students at the University of Dakar. We built them during training sessions. To see recycling take a centre role at the university proves that we’ll be able to get future generations to live in a different way than we did.
The NGO, which was initially based in Thiès and the surrounding region, has expanded its operations to the capital Dakar and even further afield to Morocco and Tunisia, where they regularly organise workshops. One of their main goals is to build more schools for talibé children.