• A recycling plant in Tanzania has started making and selling plastic face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The plant used to process and export waste paper to customers in China and India.
  • In recent weeks the business has made 6,000 units that sell for around two dollars each.

A recycling plant in Tanzania’s port city of Dar es Salaam has traded paper for plastic bottles and started making anti-coronavirus face shields that are being snatched up by hospitals and health centres nationwide.

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Until earlier this year, Zaidi Recyclers had a thriving business in processing waste paper which it exported to customers in China and India, earning it around $37,000 in revenues monthly, according to its founder Allen Kimambo.

New orders dried up, however, as country after country imposed lockdowns to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, reducing global trade to a trickle.

Yet Kimambo quickly spotted an opportunity which allowed him to save his business and the jobs of all its 38 workers. Zaidi Recyclers switched to the production of face shields, a vital piece of personal protective equipment for health workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think key is to remain relevant. You should not panic, because these crises have been there, this is not the first time we are facing this kind of crisis,” he said.

Workers prepare face shields from recycled plastics at the Zaidi Recyclers workshop as a measure to stop the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania May 27, 2020.
Hard at work
Image: Reuters/Stringer

“If you panic, you will get lost and then you will not be able to come up or be active as you used to be before.”

Orders are flooding from the health sector from across Tanzania, Kimbabo said. In recent weeks they had made 6,000 units that go for about $2 apiece.

Tanzania has so far recorded 509 coronavirus cases and 21 deaths.

Authorities have said the disruptions from the pandemic are expected to slow economic growth in 2020 to 4% from a projection of 6.9% made before the outbreak.

The firm has had to meet extra costs to protect its employees while keeping the business in operation, including for special transportation to and from the workplace.