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Saving the planet, one biodegradable product at a time

December 18, 2021
tags:#Africa, #plastic, #conservation
located:South Africa
by:Bob Koigi
Red Cup Village is a South Africa-based business that utilises 3D printing and scanning technology and combines it with material science to produce innovative products and transform society. Among its key areas of focus is creating biodegradable products such as drinking cups in order to reduce plastic waste.

Luvuyo Ndiki, the brains behind the concept and CEO of Red Cup Village, spoke to FairPlanet about the inspiration that led to the creation of the business, its journey so far and his thoughts on why Africa should embrace tech to tackle some of its major challenges.

FairPlanet: What was the inspiration behind setting up Red Cup Village and what has the journey been like so far?

Luvuyo Ndiki: Red Cup Village was inspired by a story my grandmother told me about an immensely enlightened African lady who united two rival kings by inviting them to a social gathering where she made them both drink from the same wooden cup during the 13th century.

My dream has always been to create a social cohesion among my fellow South Africans and the rest of the world. While I was in university, I had experienced and seen a lot of racial differences and segregation among students, because we did not share the same values and culture backgrounds. I want to create an African brand which would unite people through a cup, just like the African lady had done before, and through other innovative premium products and concepts.

The journey has been humbling, inspiring and memorable for me, personally, as I have been living and breathing this brand since 2014 [...] The journey continues.

Innovative ways to achieve a sustainable future

What is the philosophy that guides Red Cup Village and to what extent have you achieved what you had set out to do?

We are 7 hours ahead of New York; why are we behind technology-wise? This question always sparks self-realisation in people because they never view things in that manner. Our brand's philosophy is simply innovating and protecting the future. 

We have achieved a lot over the past years, from running operations in a small house room to opening the biggest 3D printing manufacturing farm in Africa and the Southern hemisphere. We seek to educate the people about the impact of plastics and introducing innovative ways for a sustainable future. 

How has the market's reception of your products been this far, particularly to the biodegradable drinking cups?

The market is still getting to know our products and we have seen a steady growth in our numbers [...] we are optimistic about the future.  

What opportunities are there for Africa to tap into when it comes to 3D printing and scanning technology?

Africa has huge potential in this sector due to the fact we have been importing most of the products we are using. 3D printing allows us to reverse engineering products which we currently import and create products that we can never get with our current traditional form of manufacturing.

Having been in the business of using technology to create sustainable products to stimulate green growth for some time now, what would you say is the place of innovation and tech in protecting the environment and creating a sustainable future?

I think technology has a huge role to play in creating a sustainable future because our current manufacturing systems have not been sustainable, but rather harmful, to our environment. Tech has the power to help us make the necessary changes needed for us to move to a more sustainable lifestyle across the world.

Greater Gov't support needed

As a young innovator working on creating homemade solutions to local problems, do you feel your government, and other governments across Africa, are doing enough to motivate innovators? What more should be done?

Currently, the support is not enough. We need funds invested in technology and relevant components which will make building global technology companies possible for all in Africa.

Our biggest issues have been corruption, which has stolen many innovation ideas from the people of Africa. We need good governance with aggressive investment in the potential markets of the future.

What is the toughest challenge that your enterprise is facing right now?

Using biodegradable material, which the country has no proper infrastructure for, and collection services which make our job twice as hard.

What are your future plans for the Red Cup Village?

Our plan is to keep doing what we do best and improve where we still need to while trying to build a global brand. In the future, Red Cup Village will be a global household name, but we want to take it a step at a time.

The next step is opening our full in-house material manufacturing and recycling department so we can further innovate the materials we use and [create] more premium products. 

Image by Red Cup Village

Article written by:
Bob Koigi
Bob Koigi
Author, Contributing Editor
South Africa
A biodegradable drinking cup made from recycled plastic created by Red Cup Village.
© Red Cup Village
A biodegradable drinking cup made from recycled plastic created by Red Cup Village.
Red Cup Village founder Luvuyo Ndiki in the company’s 3D printing manufacturing unit.
© Red Cup Village
Red Cup Village founder Luvuyo Ndiki in the company’s 3D printing manufacturing unit.
An assortment of innovative products produced by Red Cup Village.
© Red Cup Village
An assortment of innovative products produced by Red Cup Village.