Meet Wada Kealotswe. She is a Botswana innovator credited with recycling newspapers into eco-friendly pencils. Her pencil brand is known as Eco Zera Pencils which she started using her own savings. Kealotswe got the idea to start her brand after participating in the 2019 Youth Conference in Washington DC.
She had pitched her newspaper recycling project with the World Bank for Smart and Resilient Cities in 2019 before participating in the youth conference.
“Well, though the project made the semi-finals, it didn’t make it to the finals, but I was inspired to continue with it, and so I founded a brand called Eco Zera Pencils, which I self-funded,” Kealotswe told Xinhua.
Since her business started two years ago in Botswana’s capital city of Gaborone, Kealotswe said Eco Zera Pencils has processed over 8,000 newspapers. And since she began producing her pencil brand, she has manufactured 40,000 pencils and sold about 39,000 to date.
According to Kealotswe, 80 percent of the manufacturing processing is done by hand and 20 percent requires the use of machines. She sources her newspapers, which would have been found polluting rural and urban cities in Bostwana, from individuals and offices.
In addition to newspapers, Kealotswe also uses other materials needed in the pencil manufacturing process. Graphite and other raw materials, including machinery, are sourced from China to produce the pencils.
Kealotswe and her team process the newspapers by cutting the newspapers to the size of the graphite, and then using paper glue to secure the graphite to the slice of newspaper cutting. Afterward, the machine rolls the rest of the paper to make pencil rods secured by resin glue.
“We dry the rods in the sun for about 4 hours before using an electric oven which hardens the pencil rod to resemble wood. The rod is then cut at the two ends, giving it shape before being filed for a smooth feel. We then dress it with an eraser, sharpen it and package it in a branded box of 12,” Kealotswe said.
She also noted that apart from the monetary gains from the sale of the pencils, her other focus has been to raise consumer awareness to environmentally friendly products. “We will reach a point where many trees are not cut to make pencils. Cutting down trees disrupts the ecosystem, and by supporting green products individuals can help,” said Kealotswe.
Through her project, Kealotswe has saved thousands of trees from being chopped down. Her initiative has also won her the SEED (Awards for Entrepreneurship in Sustainable Development) Climate Adaption 2021 Award, for managing waste.