Egypt is one of the world’s leading generators of waste, racking up 100 million tons annually. Additionally, an estimated 44.8% of Egyptian households dispose of their garbage by dumping it onto the street, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).
These staggering numbers are the reason why startups are recently becoming more innovative as green initiatives are on the rise. Among these startups is Bekia, a website that is addressing local environmental concerns.
Bekia was co-founded by Alaa Afifi and Mohamed Zohdy, who wanted to help Cairo’s residents monetize their trash. The website encourages Egyptians to recycle inorganic waste such as paper, cans, plastics, metals, used vegetable oil, and more in exchange for goods and services like groceries or metro tickets. Through the website, users are able to declare the waste they want to dispose of, and exchange it for a range of products.
“We worked a lot with schools where we used to pick up the waste after each semester; we used to give the school basic food utilities which they then gave to the workers of the school.”Mohamed Zohdy, Co-Founder, Bekia
The Bekia team found that users, particularly from lower income areas, found the service to be beneficial at reducing costs for grocery shopping and eliminating tons of waste; through word of mouth between people in similar situations, the startup became increasingly more popular. Bekia even has an option where users can donate their waste so that the points given can help a family or someone in need. Bekia’s services not only caters to those in need, but also to those who generally follow an environmentally conscious lifestyle.
So far, Bekia has collected 10,000 tons of inorganic waste since its launch, and carries on with the objective of reaching 50,000 tons by 2020. Bekia currently operates in 18 areas in Cairo and Giza, and hopes to reach 25 areas in Cairo by the end of 2020. They have tried raising awareness about their program through myriad of ways using schools as one of the platforms to raise awareness. “We worked a lot with schools where we used to pick up the waste after each semester; we used to give the school basic food utilities which they then gave to the workers of the school,” recalls Zohdy.
There has been a significant trend towards businesses and entrepreneurs taking on environmental problems over the last few years. Globally, this has manifested in movements such as “zero-waste” and “plastic-free”. Regionally, various startups have been moving towards incentivizing users with cash or benefits in exchange for trash collection or reporting. GoClean follows a similar model to Bekia, collecting inorganic trash from households and company headquarters, in exchange for cash or donations to charities selected by the service’s users. Green Pan and HORECA provide a similar service but focus instead on used cooking oils, which they reprocess into biofuels. While startups, such as Greenish, have investigated and began to prosper from the opportunity of cleaning the streets of Egypt and turning trash into cash.
Egypt currently recycles around 20% of its waste, according to the Minister of the Environment, Yasmine Fouad. The Ministry’s stated goal is to boost that figure to 80% by 2025, in keeping with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by Egypt in 2015. Since then, sustainability has become a concrete element of Egypt’s agenda for its 2030 vision. This has given way to a rapid pace of entrepreneurship in the country, which is promising for more startups eager to solve social issues.
If you see something out of place or would like to contribute to this story, check out our Ethics and Policy section.