Financed by ASASE Foundation via the grant co-funded by the EUROPEAN UNION and the ALLIANCE TO END PLASTIC WASTE, we give access to a local entrepreneur in Ghana to exquisite expertise from Europe.
Meet Gianni Vyncke, an electromechanical engineer who works at the Centre for Polymer and Material Technologies at Ghent University since 2017.
He has expertise in designing for recycling, mould design, project management, mineral-filled polymers, WEEE recycling, food contact legislation, and contributed to the successful development of large-scale demonstrators. He aims to use his knowledge to disseminate and increase the use of recycled materials, aid in designing recyclable and sustainable products taking into account the entire value chain.
Our Interview with him:
How did you find out about the ASASE Foundation?
I was brought into contact with the ASASE foundation through my work. I work as a scientific researcher at Ghent University and Dana Mosara made contact with my superior to set up a collaboration. I was asked if I wanted to manage the task accordingly. As I looked into the description of the collaboration and the scope of the ASASE foundation, naturally I was intrigued and eager to start the collaboration project.
Why did you decide to do your research with us?
The university and, more specifically our research group under the lead of Prof. Kim Ragaert, gets a lot of requests from companies and foundations to research or collaborate on a certain topic. When the topic fits within the expertise of the group, it is possible that a collaboration is set up. This was the case for the work done for the ASASE foundation. Throughout the years I have worked at the University, I have gained a lot of knowledge needed for the project. Personally, I was enthusiastic as I believe that there are still a lot of big gains that can be made outside of Europe. It is important for the world to continue working on these topics in Europe but also spread the knowledge we have with the world in general so everyone can benefit from it. Next to this, I completely support the core values of the ASASE foundation because of how they help the community in Ghana.
What does your research entail?
Within the ASASE collaboration, I was given the task to improve and advise a local entrepreneur that produces plastic lumber. This entailed looking into the plastic composition and optimizing it, sharing the relevant knowledge with the entrepreneur on structure/property relations of plastics in a masterclass session, guidance on processing and required equipment, and finally input on potential product examples for future portfolio expansion.
How was your trip? What surprised you? What was memorable?
I could talk for hours about my experience in Accra, Ghana. It was amazing, heartbreaking, joyful, intriguing, mind-blowing, educational, eye-opening and so much more. It was incredible to see how the people live and work compared to what I’m used to in Europe. Some things are concerning, like the sense of safety and environment. But on the other hand, the people are doing things that you would not believe possible with the limited resources they have. I have felt powerless when I stood on the banks of the Korle Lagoon, which was more like a river of plastic waste than the image I had of a lagoon. I remember feeling like I was facing an impossible task. How can you fix this and how is this even possible? I was later faced with the poverty some people live in, and I can imagine that if you are in that situation you are not concerned if waste is treated properly or not. It is almost ironic that also this group of people suffers the most from this issue. It is the task of the companies creating these materials and products to work together to help solve this issue. Unfortunately, we can only hope for miracles. Luckily, some people are setting the example, like Dana and Hilda, that are genuinely concerned about this and took matters into their own hands to start up the ASASE foundation. For me, the experience changed my view on how we do things and how important it is to keep working on recycling, a circular economy, and spreading our knowledge. I hope to one day return to Accra and see the difference that initiatives like the ASASE foundation have made.