Material Testing: Suitability and Sustainability of Recycled Plastic as a Building Material Consultancy Opportunity in Nairobi, Kenya

Habitat for Humanity 

Consultant -Material Testing: Suitability and Sustainability of recycled plastic as a building material


Almost a quarter of the world’s population lives in substandard shelter, impacting their health and livelihoods and their children’s education. Since 1976, Habitat for Humanity has helped more than 35 million people worldwide improve their shelter conditions. Yet, Habitat’s construction efforts alone cannot keep pace with the massive and growing need. In fact, no response by governments or private philanthropy alone can meet the shelter needs of 1.6 billion people. Habitat for Humanity thus established the Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter (TCIS) to explore strategies for making housing systems work more inclusively for people in need of decent, affordable housing. The purpose of this TOR is to evaluate the suitability of recycled plastics as building materials. This study aims to assess the mechanical, physical, and environmental properties of recycled plastics and determine their potential for application in the construction industry. The results of this investigation will help in promoting sustainable practices and identifying innovative and suitable methods for utilizing recycled plastics in building projects.


The construction industry is highly extractive and depends on large volumes of raw materials sourced from the environment (sand, water, minerals, etc.). The sector globally accounts for 40% of all energy consumption, 40% of all raw materials, 25% of all timber products, 16% of all water consumption, 40% of extracted natural endowments, 25% of carbon dioxide emissions, and 45-65% of all waste deposited in landfills.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, recovery efforts are projected to focus on infrastructure, including housing construction, as economies invest in post-pandemic recovery. This represents both a challenge and opportunity to move from “take-make-dispose linear models” to circular approaches that reduce waste throughout the construction sector by moving to products or materials with high recycled content or low embodied carbon.

Over the last three years, the Habitat for Humanity’s Terwilliger Centre’s programs have seen increasing growth in supporting green, sustainable, and circular economy housing products, services, and solutions. These span from recycling plastic and agricultural waste into building products to alternative sand and repurposing existing housing stock for co-living and renewable energy. Particularly through the Shelter Tech Platform, around 60% of participant startups are developing greener housing technologies and around 10% of incorporating plastic waste into their manufacturing processes.

In Kenya, more than 98% of the plastic that is consumed in the country is imported, either in the form of product or primary virgin plastic. In 2018, the per capita plastic waste generation in Kenya was 11kg/year. Only 27% of the plastic waste generated in Kenya is collected: 8% is collected for recycling, and the remaining 19% is disposed in unsanitary landfills or dumpsites. That means 73% of all plastics waste is uncollected. All plastic that is not recycled is prone to leakage (What a Waste 2.0 Database, 2020).

Still, the African Circular Economy Alliance (ACEA) agenda is inspired by solutions to waste management, and Kenya is leading the effort to create different business models. In 2022, Habitat for Humanity contracted Miyamoto International to do result on the impacts, opportunities, and limitations of using recycled plastic waste in housing construction. The report raised some key issues that needed further assessment to help Habitat for Humanity fully understand the suitability and sustainability of recycled plastic waste as building materials. It is on the backdrop of this report that Habitat for Humanity is seeking a consultant to conduct further assessments as outlined in the succeeding sections.

Study Objectives

Habitat for Humanity seeks to understand the suitability of recycled waste plastic as a construction material and associated health and safety aspects in different geographical environments and conditions in Kenya.

  1. To determine the suitability of recycled plastic waste as a construction material in terms of its physical and mechanical properties.
  2. To identify potential hazards associated with the use of recycled plastic waste in construction materials and recommend safe handling procedures from waste collection through recycling to installation, maintenance, and disposal.
  3. To determine the environmental impact of recycled plastic waste as a building material through Life Cycle Assessment.
  4. To make recommendations on the best handling and recycling methods for recycling plastic that reduces heat consumption and emissions to the environment

Scope of Work

The scope of the assignment includes:

  1. Selection of Recycled Plastics: Commonly available building materials with recycled plastic content will be selected from participating companies.
  2. Testing Parameters: Conduct a comprehensive series of tests to evaluate the mechanical strength, durability, thermal properties, fire resistance, and environmental impacts of the recycled plastics.
  3. Comparison with Traditional Building Materials: Compare the test results of recycled plastics with conventional building materials, such as concrete, steel, and wood, to assess their performance and potential advantages.

Testing Methods

Material properties: assessment of physical and mechanical properties of recycled plastic as building materials including but not limited to the following:

    1. Tensile Strength Test: Measure the tensile strength and elasticity of the recycled plastic samples using a universal testing machine.
    2. Flexural Strength Test: Evaluate the flexural strength and modulus of elasticity of the recycled plastic specimens.
    3. Impact Resistance Test: Assess the impact resistance of the recycled plastics to determine their ability to withstand sudden loads.
    4. Water Absorption Test: Measure the water absorption capacity of the recycled plastics to evaluate their resistance to water ingress and potential degradation.
    5. Fire Resistance Test: Conduct fire resistance tests to assess the combustibility and flame spread characteristics of the recycled plastics.
    6. Durability: Assessing durability including but not limited to resistance to weathering and degradation under UV light.
    7. Thermal conductivity: determine the thermal conductivity of recycled plastic materials to understand their insulation properties.
    8. Environmental Impact Analysis: Perform a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to evaluate the overall environmental impact of using recycled plastics as building materials.
    9. Safety: The potential health and safety hazards associated with using recycled waste plastic as a construction material including but not limited to flammability, toxicity, and chemical reactions/emissions
    10. Identification of appropriate safe handling procedures including but not limited to personal protective equipment during the collection, sorting, recycling, installation, and disposal.

Test Specimens:

Prepare standardized test specimens of recycled plastics in accordance with relevant international standards. Ensure that the samples are representative of the commonly available recycled plastics in the market. The specimens will be collected from partnering companies and will mainly focus on roofing sheets, walling system (column, beam and blocks and paving blocks.

Testing Procedures

Follow established testing procedures and relevant international standards for each test method. Ensure that testing is conducted in a controlled environment to obtain accurate and reliable results.

Data Collection and Analysis

Record all test data and observations meticulously. Analyze the results to determine the mechanical, physical, and environmental properties of the recycled plastics. Compare the performance of recycled plastics with traditional building materials.

Conclusion & Recommendations

Summarize the findings of the material testing and assess the overall suitability of recycled plastics as building materials. Highlight the advantages, limitations, and potential applications of recycled plastics in the construction industry. Based on the test results, provide recommendations for the responsible use of recycled plastics in building projects and suggest possible areas for further research and improvement.


Expected deliverables include,

  1. Detailed final study report
  2. A summary of the findings
  3. A comprehensive Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for building materials made from recycled plastic waste.
  4. A detailed final study report with recommendations for application of recycled plastic waste as a building material.


Provide an estimated timeline for completing the material testing and provide a budget for the resources required for the successful execution of the study. The selected firm will work collaboratively with HFHI staff throughout all stages of the work and shall hold regular progress update meetings.

It is expected that the selected firm will begin work by October 1st, 2023, with a completion date of January 31st, 2024.

Key Competencies

Only firms meeting the following are eligibility will be considered:

      1. Demonstrated experience in material testing.
      2. Strong technical knowledge and expertise of the plastics and recycling process
      3. Technical knowledge of building standards and environmental assessment
      4. Knowledge of the Kenya’s construction industry desirable

Safeguarding and Data Protection

Safeguarding: HFHI requires that all contractors take seriously their ethical responsibilities to safeguarding our intended beneficiaries, their communities, and all those with whom we work. Managers at all levels have responsibilities to support and develop systems that create and maintain an environment that prevents harassment, sexual exploitation, and abuse, safeguards the rights of beneficiaries and community members (especially children), and promotes the implementation of Habitat for Humanity’s code of conduct.

Data Protection: The contractor will be required to abide by Habitat for Humanity International’s data protection and security policy during the assignment period.


Interested parties should submit the following:

  • A maximum 5 pages technical proposal clearly outlining understanding of the terms of reference, methodology, duration and the technical team,
  • A detailed financial proposal, and
  • Profile/resume of the lead expert (please note that the team presented at contracting will be final – changes will only be made in consultation and express consideration and approval of Habitat for Humanity)

How to apply

Interested firms are requested to submit their proposal no later than September 30, 2023, to with the subject “RECYCLED PLASTIC ASSESSMENT”.

Questions and clarifications about this Terms of Reference should be sent to and copied to to by 20th Sep 2023.