Charity recycler turns waste into cash

In just a month, a Sharjah resident collects two tonnes of junk worth Dh600.

ABU DHABI // Where some people see only rubbish, Diya Khalil sees charity and a way to show others how to be more environmentally responsible. The Sharjah resident has come up with a scheme whereby he can turn plastic, cans, paper and other detritus into hard cash. "People are not recycling enough," said the 24-year-old Palestinian. "Waste products have monetary value. So I decided to use that to encourage people to do their bit for charity and for the environment."

He came up with the idea for his scheme, known as Recycle for Charity, in October when he met a woman preparing to leave for her home country. "To be honest, I'm not a very green person. But this lady was taking used print cartridges and batteries with her back to Germany," he said. "She said she couldn't find anyone to recycle them here." Mr Khalil took them to EnviroServe, an electronics recycling company in Dubai who make small donations to charity in return for the discarded equipment they are given. They happened to mention to him that his donations could be worth something in cash.

It was then that the wheels began to turn in his mind, and the conception of his venture came into being. Building makeshift collection points at the aluminium manufacturing company where he works, Mr Khalil decided to run a one-month trial in January to see how much he could collect. When almost two tonnes of paper, cardboard and plastic built up over that month, Union Paper Mills, a Dubai recycling company, picked up the waste and presented him with a cheque for Dh600.

He donated the money to Manzil Centre for Challenged Individuals and Dubai Autism Centre. "I realised then I needed a licence to fundraise, so I applied to the Islamic Affairs Authority, and it was granted last month." He launched the project on July 15, installing three bins in the car park of The Shelter Dubai for paper, plastic and glass. In addition to the bins at his workplace, Gulf Extrusions, where an average of two tonnes are collected each month, Mr Khalil hopes Recycle for Charity will gather a further ton from the bins at The Shelter.

Janine Fiveash, the communications manager at The Shelter, said her company was proud to back his project. "We have worked with Diya Khalil on a number of occasions and we admire the selfless work he is doing for charity," she said. "Our central location for drop-offs makes it easy to support this cause." Huzaifa Rangwala, the marketing manager of the recyclable waste division at Union Paper Mills, said his company would also support Mr Khalil's cause.

The mill, one of very few in the Gulf to recycle materials on site rather than shipping them abroad, recycles 450 tonnes of paper, cardboard and plastic a day. So far, the charity has collected 1.01 metric tonnes of waste paper and corrugated cardboard on behalf of Recycle for Charity. The amount is so small that it is not commercially viable, said Mr Rangwala. "In most cases we don't deal with a company if it's less than five tonnes, but we made an exception for Mr Khalil," he said.

"Nobody has approached us with an idea like this before and we liked it. As the saying goes, every little bit helps. It is small drops of water that make up the ocean."