UAE - Energy & Mining
Co-founder & Managing Partner, Ecyclex International Recycling and ReLoop
Youssef Chehade co-founded Ecyclex to solve the e-waste problem in UAE, which became the leading e-waste recycling company with local facilities in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah. More recently, he co-founded ReLoop, a one-stop recycling app which aims to empower each individual to be part of UAE’s circular economy by recycling for the doorstep.
COVID-19 affected everyone. Recycling and waste are not a top priority when it comes to pandemics. For a few months, the market stopped and focused only on healthcare and staying safe. We also had to slow down in terms of operations. We are fortunate to be in the UAE because it was one of the few countries that reacted quickly to protect the economy. After a few months from the beginning of the pandemic, we started seeing businesses opening again, especially the big clients. Overall, the pandemic slowed our investments; two years ago, we won a tender to start the first approved e-waste facility in Abu Dhabi, which got delayed due to closures, but fortunately, we inaugurated the facility in 2021.
Our main specialty is recycling electronics and electrical equipment. We did see some positives for our industry. Remote work and studying from home contributed to an increase in consumption and disposal of electronics. It increased the quantities. Now, the market is returning to normal after the peak of the pandemic, and we are again seeing an increase in demand for our services. People of all ages are contacting us about recycling. It inspired us to start a mobile app called ReLoop for helping individuals to recycle from home. We launched ReLoop along with the inauguration of Expo 2020. ReLoop empowers individuals to be part of the circular economy in the UAE from the comfort of their homes. Rather than throwing everything away, they now have the infrastructure through our app and technology to recycle wherever they want. We cover Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah, and hope to expand the app to other cities.
One thing is that at an organizational level, companies should be able to react quickly to market changes. As we saw with COVID-19, markets stopped instantly for a few months, and companies should build this in their business continuity and emergency plans. Another thing is adapting flexibility in the way business is run. Rather than depending more on fixed assets or full-time employees, we started depending more on outsourcing certain services and depending on part-time partnerships to reduce the burden of fixed costs. The third lesson is ensuring greater collaboration with all the stakeholders. In summary: reacting quickly, being flexible, and leveraging partnerships.
With COVID-19, Expo 2020, and COP28, the government at a federal and local level is significantly more aligned to improve the whole country’s sustainability aspects. The UAE is leading the region when it comes to environmental regulations. We, as a company in the region, receive many calls from other GCC countries or MENA countries keen to learn from the UAE. These countries consider the UAE a pioneer and a learning hub. When it comes to global leaders, the UAE does have a long way to go, though the leadership does have a clear path toward sustainability.
In general, by nature the recycling industry contributes positively. Our recycling processes produce less emissions than getting raw material from natural resources. That is one of the main contributions, which is ensuring that we take all the material coming in our industry, recycle it, and supply the local market with recycled sources, whether it is plastics, metals, glass, and so on. Through our recycling processes, we help the economy reduce its dependence on natural resources that produce more emissions. Within UAE, we have built recycling infrastructure in the three major cities (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah) and recently started leveraging digital technology (ReLoop App), which both together contribute to UAE’s zero carbon emissions goals.