Limpho Thoahlane is the founder of Pheha Plastics, the organisation that creates amazing products out of waste plastics. In a project generously funded by a Belgium company best known for its special love for Lesotho, Hirundo Energy, Limpho makes coasters, tiles, buttons, laundry pegs, rulers, jewelry lines out of our faulty products, fruit baskets and lampshades .
Here is the story of the young lady who believes in getting things done.
“I don’t know about my dad since he left when I was still young but I think my love for art may have come from my mom. She was into music and choirs,” she started relating her story. That said, she thinks her sister instilled in her, the love for volunteering. “My sister just loved volunteering. At some point she was volunteering at Kick-for-Life and Sentebale and she would just pull me along and I found myself also working for those organisations.”
“My sister taught me that I can actually get something done without expecting any payment at all,” she said.
[Milco is a proposed chain-store that will sell only Lesotho products. Learn more: https://www.nulresearchandinnovations.co.ls/a-chain-store…
In time, she volunteered to work for the Morija Arts Centre and The Hub Morija.
Her fascination with plastics started at the Morija Arts Centre, “I created mats out of waste plastic at the centre among other things.” That project apparently brought into her attention issues of waste and waste management, climate change and the environment.
The balls started rolling from there on.
Being at The Hub Morija also influenced her, “I remember we received a couple of Climate Change workshops at the Hub showing the impact of the changing climate on our lives.”
Her love for the environment was being fuelled.
So part of her work at The Hub included producing animated scripts about Climate Change and, of course, she would tweet about it. The beauty of Social media, the likes of Facebook and Twitter, is that they can take you places if you do good things.
They did take her places.
Apparently, her tweets caught the attention of Hirundo Energy. Hirundo Energy describes itself as a company that develops wind Energy in Africa. We have previously reported that NUL Energy Research Centre is working with Hirundo Energy to explore the feasibility of Wind Farms in Lesotho.
With the interest they have on issues of environment, Hirundo Energy had a specific question for Limpho, “they specifically wanted to know what I was hoping to do to fight Climate Change.”
She mentioned recycling of plastics.
A word or two about plastics will make it easy for us to understand what, on earth, the plastics have to do with Climate Change.
We normally call plastics, plastics. That is because, well, most plastics are, in fact, plastic (flexible, easy to shape, malleable). Of course the word plastic is correct when used by the layman. In science, the correct word to use is polymer. That is because not all polymers are plastic (flexible) but most of the things we call plastics are polymers.
In fact some polymers are hard as rock.
They are called polymers because they are made of molecular units called mers. Just as a typical chain is made of a series of rings tied together, the long polymer molecules are made of a series of units called mers where a mer (Greek) means “part”. Poly means “many”, so polymer means “many parts”. For instance, one of the polymers she recycles is called polyethylene (many ethylenes) because each molecule of the polymer is made of many ethylenes where each ethylene is a mer.
And those units can be many O! Just one molecule of a typical polymer (plastic) can have as many as 30, 000 parts (mers)!
Most modern plastics (back to the layman’s language) are made from fossil fuels, including crude oil. A mind-boggling 100 million tonnes of plastics are produced annually and the figure is expected to triple by 2050! The process of making these plastics releases climate changing Carbon Dioxide. By 2050, unless we do something, plastics will contribute nearly 13% of the global carbon budget, equivalent to the carbon release by 615 coal-powered power stations every year!
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realise that we are killing ourselves and our planet faster and faster, and recycling plastics is one of the ways to ensure that our (foolish) march to extinction is slowed.
Hers might seem to be a small contribution to the problem of Climate Change but as all scientists know, there is nothing small about small things…in fact small things are not small at all.
Back to the real story.
So Hirundo Energy went off for some time and came back with an offer. They would sponsor equipment with which she would pursue her passion, which meant plastic recycling.
It was a shot in the arm!
A born doer, when the machines arrived, she was plunged into work. Her products are already making rounds both locally and internationally.
She is grateful to Hirundo Energy for believing in her!