As a child Mujahid Emambokus and his father tended to plants in the small backyard of his childhood home in Mauritius. The time spent in the family garden, instilled in him a respect for the environment. So as an adult, it wasn’t far-fetched that the entrepreneur Mujahid realised the need for formalised waste management solutions, founded his company, Morivert. The business makes pencils from recycled domestically sourced paper waste. In 2023 alone, Morivert diverted two tons of paper waste from landfill, churning out around 60,000 pencils in the last fiscal year.
As operations for Morivert have grown, the company has expanded its range of products to include plantable pencils, recycled paper pens, and recycled waste insulation material.
One of its recent innovations is the Moribrick, the brick made of recycled textiles.
After learning that 20% of waste in African landfills is textiles, Mujahid worked to develop a product that could help mitigate the issue while lending to more sustainable construction practices.
For Mujahid, maximising the volume of diverted waste through Morivert’s new product was a priority. In an interview with Twyg, he says, “At first, we tried for pens made of textiles. But the product was too small to have a big enough impact…Each brick can divert 300-400 grams of textile waste at a time”.
With operations underway to bring the bricks to market, Mujahid shared the innerworkings of their latest invention. Having set up partnerships with garment manufacturers, Morivert collects textile waste and sorts into material types. While many textiles can be recycled into bricks, each textile, such as denim or polyester, produces a different texture of brick. Mixtures of textiles can also be used to make bricks, but these must be mixed by hand, as they are made of a proprietary recipe using different percentages of each textile.
The glue—a water-based adhesive with flour, cornstarch, and eco-based resin—is made in varying thicknesses as each textile or textile mix necessitates a certain thickness of adhesive for optimal material compactness. The textiles and glue are then combined and compressed in a hydraulic press in the Morivert factory. Afterward, the bricks are further moulded and polished to prepare for market. Due to the intense compression of the press, the bricks contain no air and are also fire-retardant despite being made of flammable materials, making them safe for indoor use near fireplaces or candles.
Mujahid acknowledges that simply recycling one product into another does not make waste disappear forever. Should the bricks end up in landfills, the glue will biodegrade naturally overtime, but the textiles will become waste, making end-of-life solutions imperative for an effective waste diversion model.
When asked about the waste management of bricks after they are no longer wanted, Mujahid says a recollection program will be installed so that unwanted products may be refurbished or recycled into new Moribrick products to divert them from landfills.
The product is not currently suited for outdoor use but is in testing for interior use before hitting commercial market at the end of 2024. Prototypes include furniture such as nightstands, and shelving made of Moribrick.
When asked why a product like Moribrick is needed in Africa, Mujahid says that the recycling infrastructure in Mauritius does not currently have the capacity to sort and recycle textile waste. The government, however, awards mini grants to innovators such as Morivert, and offers funding for equipment to be able to scale burgeoning forms of textile recycling in the country.
Among other awards, Morivert has been selected to participate in a Mauritius-based incubator, Trampoline, which funded the development of operations for Moribrick. Mujahid says, “What small entrepreneurs are trying to do is create a sorting and recycling infrastructure in Mauritius”.
Mujahid says Morivert is “not only profit motivated. We want to create social impact.” Sustainability as a value of the company does not just apply to the products they produce, but to the ways in which they can provide economic stability for others.
Part of the venture’s business model is the intentional employment of women in rural areas in Mauritius. “Most women in these areas are unable to work because they have children. School starts at 9am and ends at 3pm…[conventional] work hours start at 8am usually and end at 5pm so it’s hard for women to find jobs.” In order to accommodate the domestic family duties of these women, Morivert starts at 9:30am and ends at 2:30pm. The point of employment is to give flexible hours so women can still work while providing for loved ones at home.
Mujahid says that since about 557 tonnes of waste is produced in Mauritius a year, and six percent of which is textiles waste, new innovations that divert textile waste are becoming increasingly necessary in addressing this chronic problem.
- To find out more about Morivert, visit the website
- The Moribrick was on exhibit at the Africa Textile Talks 2023