Rwandan Design Company Develops Sustainable Recycled Tiles

Coldharbour Tiles creates artistic tiles from one hundred percent recycled HDPE.

Emily Packer and Jake Calhoun are designers who have a fundamental problem with plastic pollution. They say that ninety one percent of the world’s plastic waste is never recycled. One million plastic water bottles are purchased around the world every minute, and less than half of those bottles and their caps are recycled. Working with engineering professors and students at Rwanda Polytechnic (IPRC) in Kigali, Rwanda the team developed a use for recycled plastics. Coldharbour Tile is a venture using high density polyethylene and turning it into decorative tiles, currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund upgrade their production facility and capacity.

Three Rwandan engineers currently work at the production facility, consisting most of plastic preparation, shredding, melt, press and polish stations. Tiles are available in hexagon, rectangle and square shapes in nine different color schemes. The hex measures an 8 centimeter width and 6 centimeter sides, weighs 130 grams and is equivalent to 43 plastic bottle caps. One square meter can be covered with 59 hexagon tiles. The rectangles are 15 x 7 centimeters and squares are smallest at 2 x 2 centimeters. The FAQ page of the campaign says that these tiles can withstand temperatures to approximately 248 degrees Fahrenheit for outside use, but the tiles have been designed and tested for interior applications.

Coldharbour Tile is a great example of a sustainability project combining the artistic side of design, engineering, and manufacturing. The fact that this is happening in Rwanda after finding engineering students to develop the process is another great selling point. Future plans include more capacity, a changeover to exclusively renewable energy, and the addition of a garbage truck for more efficient transport of plastic to the warehouse. The Kickstarter campaign ends on April 11, 2019.