Inspirational eco-preneur recycling Kenya's waste
Founder of EcoPost
Sector: Manufacturer of recycled plastic lumber
Lorna Rutto is a Kenyan eco-preneur, and the inspiring founder of EcoPost, a social enterprise created in response to the need to find alternative waste management solutions to Kenya's huge plastic waste problem. In 2009 she founded her company, which collects plastic waste and manufactures commercially viable, highly durable, and importantly environmentally friendly fencing posts, used widely across Kenya. In 2011, Lorna was recognised by the prestigious Cartier Women's Initiative Awards as their laureate for sub-Saharan Africa.
Lorna has not only provided Kenya with a commercial alternative to timber, but has in the process created over 300 jobs, generated much needed revenues, saved over 250 acres of forests and taken over 1 million kilogrammes of plastic waste out of the environment. Her efforts have won her numerous plaudits and awards, both at home and abroad.
Lorna's Startup Story
As a young child, growing up in the Kaptembwa Slums in Kenya, Lorna Rutto experienced more than her fair share of poverty, unemployment, garbage and rotting waste in the streets, and clogged, overflowing sewers encroaching people's homes. As a young schoolgirl, her eco-consciousness came to the fore, when she noticed the huge amounts of plastic waste littering the environment. She decided to start making a small difference to addressing the situation, recycling this plastic litter and making creative pieces of jewellery and small ornaments by melting the plastic, reshaping and decorating it into new objects. She sold her creative work at school to other pupils and friends for small amounts of money, but it was a small step to becoming more environmentally aware.
After school, she went to college, graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Accounting, and went into a career in banking, a solid career choice given the tough employment market in Kenya at the time. However, she felt unfulfilled and longed to work with people and in the field of science, instead of working on financial systems and structures....
Lorna and her eco-business are truly inspirational and demonstrate how it is possible to create a viable and sustainable business in Africa, whilst at the same time positively impacting on local communities and the environment. --- Melanie Hawken, LoA founder & editor-in-chief
Lorna is an inspirational and passionate social entrepreneur with a vision to have a Green Africa free from poverty. Her vision for EcoPost is:
"To transform Africa's waste into wealth"
EcoPost aims to create a sustainable solution to the growing plastic waste menace, provide a suitable alternative so that we reduce the cutting down of trees and create job opportunities to reduce poverty.
We buy plastic waste from our collection yards across the country, where women buy waste plastic from unemployed young people, and then sort and clean it before selling it to us. "I am actually turning the trash into cash while creating job opportunities, especially for the youth and women who are generally marginalised. Nothing makes me happier."
Awards & Accolades
Lorna's awards and honours include:
- 2014 - Lorna wins the Green Award by the Transform Kenya Awards a joint initiative of the Standard Group and Deloitte
- 2012 - Lorna is listed on 'The 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa' by Forbes magazine
- 2012 - The Guardian names Lorna one of Africa's Top 25 Women Achievers
- 2011 - Lorna wins The Cartier Women's Initiative Sub-Saharan Africa Laureate Award
- 2011 - Lorna is an Acumen Fund winner
- 2010 - Lorna wins the Bid Network Nature Challenge Award
- 2010 - Lorna wins the 2010 SEED Award
- 2010 - Awarded Ichem E -Innovator of the Year
- 2010 - WJF honourable mention
- 2010 - Bid Network winner, sponsored by WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature)
- 2009 - Lorna wins the Enablis Business Launchpad Award