UNZA Don develops innovation that converts waste tyres and plastic into petroleum


University of Zambia School of Engineering, Lecturer and Researcher, Dr. Sam Sichilalu, has developed an innovation designed to generate fuel from polymer waste such as discarded tyres, plastic, and rubber.

The innovation that is called “polyfuel prototype” converts waste tyres, plastic materials into high grade polyfuel (industrial fuel) which is a hydrocarbon mixture of petrol, diesel and kerosene with methane vapor.

The innovation is aimed at contributing to improved sanitation, cheaper energy, reduction on deforestation, improved income for vulnerable women waste material collectors and a climate change mitigation on all non-biodegradable products.

Dr. Sichilalu says that the polyfuel innovation will not only provide a cheap source of energy, but will also solve the problem of disposal of waste tires/plastic thereby contribute to the control of environmental pollution and will reduce dependence on fossil fuels or petroleum.

He said that the polyfuel produced is safe to be used as industrial fuel in electric generators, boilers, diesel pumps, furnaces, and in cars.

Dr. Sichilalu will be exhibiting his innovation at the 93rd Agriculture and Commercial Show in Lusaka. Please visit the University of Zambia stand for this and more innovations that UNZA will be showcasing from 31st July 2019 to 5th August 2019.

This is according to a statement issued by UNZA Spokesperson Brenda Bukowa.

And Higher Education Minister Brian Mushimba has described the innovation as incredible.

“I have been alerted that UNZA and one of its researcher Dr Sichilalu have developed a prototype that converts waste tyres/plastics into biofuels. Incredible feat that must be celebrated,” Dr Mushimba wrote on Twitter.

Dr Mushimba said industry and research institutions such as UNZA must constantly collaborate and find solutions.

“We would like to congratulate the University of Zambia management, particularly the School of Engineering, Lecturer and Researcher, Dr. Sam Sichilalu, for developing an innovation designed to generate fuel from polymer waste such as discarded tyres, plastic, and rubber,” he said.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema has congratulated Dr. Sichilalu on his innovation.

“We have been informed that the innovation called “polyfuel prototype” converts waste tyres/plastic materials into high grade polyfuel (industrial fuel) which is a hydrocarbon mixture of petrol, diesel and kerosene with methane vapor,” he stated.

“We understand the innovation is aimed at contributing to improved sanitation, cheaper energy, reduction on deforestation, improved income for vulnerable women waste material collectors and a climate change mitigation on all non-biodegradable products.”

Mr Hichilema added, “We are so excited because such innovation, research and development falls in what we believe can be done in an efficiently funded education system.”

“We have always said Zambia is not short brains and manpower, but it’s short of leadership to inspire and support such innovations for the betterment of our citizens.”

He said if well supported and implemented at large scale, such innovations can immensely contribute in addressing the current high cost of fuel in the country and generate employment opportunities for the people, especially youth and women.

“Congratulations once more to the entire team and please let’s hear more of such positive news from our country.”


  1. UNZA can do more than that, if and only if, budgetary allocation to research and development is appreciated by the powers that be. Universities, worldwide, invest a lot in innovation and research. We cannot expect intellectual advancement if we are frugal in allocating resources for academic development. Most researchers have ideas which are just shelved owing to less attention in financing their work. Zambian lecturers and researchers can be the best in the continent if appreciation, in terms of funds, is allocated to them. We need to increase allocation in our budgets towards research and development. We have idle brains in these universities because of having penguins hands in giving them the best. Where there is no investment, don’t expect returns.

    • We always get innovations like this, wait and see these PFs will kill the project.
      All what they’re seeing is how to that lecturer will get rich, therefore let him fail.
      They killed energy drinks, because Ugandan complained, not knowing someone just wanted to copy formula.
      Sondashi medicine… They refused to use it.

    • People please read E. Rodgers account of innovations (first published in 1961) and you will see that Sam can be called an innovator or early adopter within an existing innovation! That is good.

      However, I see a lot of people here confusing a hobby with innovation …

    • Great development. I would rather the Don and his team patent this and protect it. My worry is some government official will sell this to the Chinese or the tyres and plastics will come from China and we will become a dumping ground.

    • Sorry to disappoint the many excited readers but this is not a new innovation at all. I watched a report a few years ago on AJE about how Syrians who were isolated due to the war from receiving fuel started to melt and use the vapour under the process of distalillation to make diesel. This is called poor man’s fuel because it will destroy your engine in a short period. Even in South Africa the Boers use this method on their farms to make diesel for their farm generators, google it and you will find many videos and articles going back 30 or more years on the same subject. It’s a good effort but it’s nothing new.

    • I hope Dr. Sam Sichilalu doesn’t sell his innovation as Gas & Oil Elite will simply buy the patent off him just to shelve it and continue ripping off people…there are innovators who have invented vehicles that run on water but some big wigs have bought them off just to shelve it..

    • This is akin to how KK was duped that he could produce fuel from grass. Burning tyres + plastic in large quantities would be an ecological disaster. All the learned and sane people are calling for global reduction of CO2 production and yet can see some people here applauding this disastrous research project. This is a non starter unless some one tells me how to mitigate the massive CO2 that would be produced when the project is scaled up

    • Fulunyemba – You are right even in the photo he is wearing a gas mask…yet they state in the ad that its greener…I am not convinced.

    • Here you go asking usual styupidy, idyotic questions.
      ICD should pump money in this industry. They can import all waste around sadc, including tires from Japan. Maybe Japan will be happy to import fuel back.

    • Its just an inevitable question. Nothing wrong with asking that. If it is then we have landed a goldmine. If it isnt we rethink.

    • @Nsonsonso, stop supporting amano yanu Zambia. It is not always about money. Let me ask you:
      1. Is grabbing KCM back cost effective? No its just INEVITABLE
      2. Is going to the moon in 1969 cost effective?
      Let me ask what your @Pompolyongo can understand, ifyabukaya:
      3. Is Tayali’s marriage to an Ethiopian cost effective, NO. But his new wife just changed his life, he landed a GOLDMINE!!

  2. What we need to do now is to ask ALL boys/girls, abana banshiwa, the unemployed etc within Lusaka to start collecting ALL RUBBISH especially PLASTICS in every township and deliver to UNZA for a FEE! I can tell that within a year; there shall be no more CHORELLA in Lusaka because all the rubbish will be no more.

    Move on guys this is the spirit, go and see “Chungwa Rungu” for funding, that’s a wonderful undertaking well done!

  3. That’s more like it from UNZA.

    GRZ needs to use UNZA and other unis more, they need nurturing to lead and spearhead our economy.

  4. This maybe a great achievement for Zambia but as far as I know, it is not a brand new innovation. There are already a number of methods of converting waste material to fuel.

    It may be a cheap alternative to crude oil but does it solve the problem of carbon emission? Dr. Sichilalu should do more research and prove that his product is non-pollutant and will not cause ecological inbalance, that is when he will have my congratulations.

    • Its a useless innovation, we used to burn tyres since kids, its all pollution, the only innovation this country will ever have is kachasu.

    • Mwebantu, why do we have the spirit of “PULL HIM/HER DOWN PHD” in Zambia?Goggle “CARBON FOOTPRINT” we are going to know and understand what advantages/disadvantages of this project.

  5. This is a very good piece of information away from the usual politics. Unfortunately i can already see some doubting Thomases passing discouraging comments. For your own iformation this is what all PhDs and DPhils must be doing. Researching and adding to the body of knowledge. This is beyond Kambwili, Lusambo, GBM, Lungu and all those lazy heads with fake Dr titles from quaestionable institutions. Keep it up UNZA. If and only if. I like the statement. It was there ini M110 by Prof Prakash and Prof Bartholomew.

  6. These are just camp fire stories . Nothing will come out of this. Believe you me. We had Sondashi formular. Where is it to date???????

  7. Glad to see this from our own and from UNZA, congratulations, fuel made and produced in #Zambia is the best news! Salute the investment and i hope President Lungu will lead the decision to invest in this innovation, this is economic transformation at the doorstep,

  8. While I applaud the don from UNZA I can not call this and innovation. All you need to do is go to youtube and type waste tyres and plastics into petroleum and you will find a number of videos of people demonstrating this. So this is not an innovation more a copy of what others have done already.

    • In design and engineering per say ,it allowed as long as you site your source information and beside that is called adaptive design or already in place

  9. A soft-spoken and level-headed young man I have always had a lot of respect for. Even when the current executive of UNZALARU to which he was elected started doing things differently from what was initially planned, he decided to step aside to reflect. He is a genius and should be applauded for the great work he has achieved.

  10. Kwena ni pa Zambia. It is called recycling. He is turning products of hydrocarbons back into another form of hydrocarbons. Nothing new. The product is so toxic and he is adding more pollution by burning those rubbers. Anybody can do this simple distillation, I would not invest a ngwee.

  11. Well well congratulations doc, this is what we mean when we say, “finding local solutions to local problems.” All innovations at their very foundation must change the social system for the better. Indeed there is no shortage of brain power in Zambia to come up with more innovations that will improve the lot of our people. I remember in our days of JETS, we had some young Edisons in our club, wonder where those guys are now. I wish there can be an financial institution set up for the sole purpose of funding science and technology projects like these. In the innovation ecosystem, funding is paramount, it shouldn’t take long to move from prototype to ready for market product. It would also help to have a national innovation index to keep track of number of patents filed annually. Patent…

  12. Congratulations Dr. On this innovation we hope for more of such innovation and hope that government and businesses owners can help fund this to a mainstream product and business

  13. This technology was widely used in China and other Asian countries some time back, the reason why it was stopped was because of pollution. The pollutants generated from the first and second stages are a problem to the ozone layer and the general environment including animals

  14. Congratulations Dr.Sam Sichilalu!!we are very proud of you my guy!!This is my best friend and a wise tonga indeed trained in Russia at under grag-level!!!See you in Showgrounds tomorrow my friend!!

  15. You need 20ton of tyres to produce 200 litres of diesel and you generate 5ton of carbon in the atmosphere contributing to global warming

    Fosil fuel product is not and never clean Mr HH. So dont get excited.

    Let’s go green

  16. @1.6 2020vision – Right on. There is no innovation here. It is wrong for a learned person to present an impression that his “innovation” is an invention. This technology is known and prototypes are all over the world, even in South Africa — but there is no commercial production of fuel using the pyrolysis of plastics and tyres. It is not economically viable. A proof of concept was done a long time ago. The UNZA don can use this project for promotion, if he made some modifications to the equipment that demonstrate an improved efficiency. Otherwise, the Minister’s and the opposition leader’s excitement smacks of ignorance.

  17. Mataela yamotoka yosila tigula … Kikikiki
    Tyre theft will be on the increase!
    Come up with the Brazilian innovation of turning solid waste into electricity! Motivate people to sell domestic and industrial waste!

  18. Way to go. Anyone against this a fool. At least for once a Zambian is doing something positive. Just because you are an ***** still wallowing in the hate Kaunda, hate, Chiluba, hate Mwanawasa, hate RB, hate the king cobra, hate ECL, hate everyone else doing better, that past is gone. Either you pick yourself up and start working hard as we did, or continue to suck the toilet in expecting hand outs. Why can’t we just support a fellow Zambian for once?

  19. i remember nigerian girls who could generate electricity from imisu{human waste}.they were invited to compete in un innovation in europe to win prizes.and were told to demostrate,sadly the whiteman stole the idea. Today its called WASTE TO ENERNGY.and they are making money out of it. my advise to SAM is protect your stuff especially from a whiteman.

  20. Pyrolysis is not a new invention Doc. it was dicovered a long time ago. JETS members from many schools have demonstrated this in the past!

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