John Njuguna is a Kenyan citizen who started his career in primate research. He went on to gain administrative experience in the private sector and is now involved in the running of four successful companies, one of them being Chardust. John looks after the company’s administrative systems, personnel, accounts and day to day operations.
Chardust was founded in 2000 to produce substitutes for charcoal on a commercially sustainable basis. Given that charcoal generally wholesales for less than $150 per tonne in developing countries, this was at one time thought impossible. Chardust, however, making use of low-priced raw materials, ample labour supply and a good measure of innovation, set out to produce fuels that could sell directly into traditional charcoal markets and compete head-to-head on price and quality. With daily sales peaking at over 7 tonnes, this goal has been achieved!
A strong philosophical foundation influences business decisions at Chardust. The company's Directors are aware that they are pioneers of emerging technology that has led to the development of a new industry in East Africa with the capacity to protect diminishing natural resources, recycle large amounts of waste and provide inexpensive fuel to huge numbers of people.
Welcome to Chardust, an alternative energy company in Nairobi, Kenya. We've developed innovative techniques to convert discarded charcoal waste into low-cost fuel briquettes.
For each tonne of charcoal briquettes sold, we displace an equivalent amount of regular lumpwood charcoal. At the same time as providing a cheaper and longer-burning energy alternative, this creates jobs, recycles waste and brings the charcoal business into Kenya’s formal economy.
We also manufacture water heaters that use our briquettes, delivering savings of over 70% compared with water heated using electricity.
Elsen Karstad is a Canadian who has lived in Kenya since 1971 and combines his educational background as an ecologist with a flair for engineering and sales. Elsen’s role in Chardust is innovation, design, marketing and the refinement of production systems and machinery.
Matthew Owen is a British citizen who trained as a Geographer and now works as a bio-energy consultant. He handles Chardust’s special projects and technical support, as well as website and communications. Matthew also runs his own company selling wood-burning institutional stoves and gel fuel, and is a shareholder in BURN Manufacturing, East Africa’s leading cookstove company.
Around 10% of the charcoal brought into Nairobi is thrown away as dust. It accumulates wherever charcoal is sold. Collecting this dust supports a cleaner urban environment. Chardust salvages the dust and brings it to the briquetting factory for cleaning and processing.
Chardust's centre of operations is a 1 hectare at Gataka on the southern edge of Nairobi. This is the company head office and home of the briquetting operation and Chardust's programme of research and development.
Our main product is the Vendor's Waste Briquette - VWB. This pillow-shaped briquette weighing approximately 35 gms is made from charcoal dust and fines salvaged from traders across the city . VWB burns for over 3 hours with no smoke, sparks or smell, making it ideal for space heating and water heating applications, as well as cooking and roasting. VWB is sold mainly to institutional customers such as poultry farms, hotels, lodges and restaurants.
We also produce a premium charcoal briquette made from selected vendors' waste and natural binders. This lower ash product is designed for the domestic barbecue market and is sold mainly through supermarkets
Our third product is a spherical briquettes which we call the FireBall. These are also aimed at the urban mid-scale market.
Chardust Ltd. (www.chardust.com) is responsible for seedball production and, some 20 years ago, started what is now a thriving industry in East Africa: manufacturing eco-friendly briquettes from salvaged charcoal vendor's waste. Chardust started coal mining in some of the highest-density and lowest-income urban areas of Nairobi in 1996. Charcoal mining to be precise. Elsen had discovered that beneath every long-established charcoal sales area scattered throughout most of Nairobi there were literally thousands of tons of well-preserved discarded charcoal dust 'waste'- some of it dating back to the early 1900's as evidenced by old coins recovered during 'mining' the sites.
CLEANING THE ENVIRONMENT &
RECYLCING PRE-CARBONISED WASTE
Chardust, Biochar and Salvaged Charcoal Vendor's Waste
Another use for salvaged charcoal waste is Biochar. Charcoal dust and chips have well documented soil improvement characteristics, particularly in acidic tropical soils. This is where charcoal vendor's waste meets tree and grass seeds to produce Seedballs using production techniques developed by Chardust. The recycle circle is complete with the use of salvaged urban biochar to protect and nourish seeds delivered to areas that were, in most cases, deforested for fuel.
Chardust's founders believe that it is possible to run a successful enterprise at the same time as protecting the environment and improving the welfare of people in developing countries.