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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 September, 2004, 06:39 GMT 07:39 UK
Tanzania's house of tyres
By Daniel Dickinson
BBC, Dar es Salaam

Tyre house
The house is a shrine to recycling
An intoxicating cocktail of smells hits you as you enter Charles Lugenga's house; rubber, tarmac, oil all combine to make a whiff that you probably would not want to experience in your own house.

But then again Charles Lugenga's house is no ordinary house.

It is made, apart from a few supporting wooden struts, exclusively out of worn-out tyres picked up off the streets of Dar es Salaam.

Set among more typical breeze-block residences in a city suburb, it is a bizarre sight.

Its roof is an uneven jumble of unravelled tubes.


Inside, with expansive and enthusiastic gestures the proud owner shows me a single large room with a carpet woven from tyre-strips as well as a table and two comfy chairs made from tyres which once graced cars, buses and agricultural machinery.

The tyres are abandoned along Tanzania's roads
A sign on the roof declares it as the "First tyre house in the world".

Well, it is certainly the first of its kind in Tanzania and what is more it has a serious message.

"I want people to think first about recycling and then how they can make money from solid industrial waste like tyres," says Charles Lugenga, of the Environment Based Poverty Alleviation foundation. (EPBA)

Solid industrial waste is rapidly becoming a serious problem in Tanzania and tyres are perhaps the most visible example of this.

When you start looking, you see tyres and remnants of tyres discarded everywhere, blighting the landscape; by city roads, in rural fields, on beaches, well just about everywhere.

Changed culture

It used to be different, according to Charles Lugenga.

"In Tanzania, there was traditionally a culture of recycling. Worn-out tyres were snapped up and all sorts of household objects were made from them; shoes were always popular."

Tyre shoes
Tyres are famously used to make sandals
But that all changed as a result of trade liberalisation, says Mr Lugenga.

"Trade liberalisation boosted our economy. Gradually there were more vehicles on the road and more and more discarded tyres. These are the tyres which now scar our country."

And it's not just the landscape the tyres are ruining. Left by the roadside, they can often cause accidents on Tanzania's busy highways.

They are also perfect breeding places for mosquitoes if water collects in the rims.


No-one will ever live in this house, even though once it is painted, the acrid smell will disappear, Mr Lugenga assures me. It is meant more as a symbolic statement that something needs to be done about the problem of solid industrial waste.

Tyre chair
The smell is supposed to disappear once the tyres are painted
"This house shows that with imagination, tyres can be recycled effectively."

EPBA is now holding workshops aimed at persuading people to make new objects out of tyres; lamp shades, tables, chairs and the once ubiquitous rubber sandals.

It is not clear exactly how far scavenging for used tyres in the quest for creativity and environmental friendliness will help to clean up Tanzania's blighted landscape but it can only be a good thing.

And as I drive away from Charles Lugenga's unique house I can't help but admire that his sandy drive is lined on both sides with what else: Tyres.

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