Time Out Bahrain catches up with Recycling For Charity’s Boris Uligh
Time Out Bahrain staff
In 2008, Bahrain produced 1.7 million tonnes of rubbish. That’s nearly 4,700 tonnes each day and approximately two tonnes per person, annually. Recycling, though a massive industry in many countries, almost didn’t exist in the country. Until, that was, Boris Uhlig, the German recycling magnate, set up shop in Bahrain in July 2008 and determined to make this brown archipelago green.
If anyone can claim a green pedigree, Boris Uhlig can. Born in 1966, the same year his father set up Germany’s first recycling plant in Hamburg, his family were pioneers in reusing rubbish. The term recycle had only been coined six years before and Uligh’s father’s operation started almost a decade before the West German government, one of the most progressive in the world at the time, officially sanctioned the industry.
But reusing Bahrain’s waste wasn’t Uhlig’s only goal. ‘We translate waste into charity – BD15 per tonne. There are other recyclers in Bahrain, but we are the only ones in the Middle East giving BD15 per tonne to charity. Make no mistake, this is a business and we do make a profit, but we are the only ones sharing what accounts for almost one third of our revenue.’ Meaning you can be green and charitable just by getting rid of your garbage: a no-brainer for anyone with the right attitude and a car boot full of bottles.
Like most business plans, preparation for the Recycle For Charity initiative was everything, not least when it came to estimating the number of recycle stations needed. ‘We spent one year researching to make sure we adjusted the plan to the specific needs [of the market] and to make sure it was successful. Our research told us that we would need to empty the banks every four days. But what we found is that we have to empty them every second day.’ Not only that, but the scheme has been so successful that at the beginning of December, just nine months after beginning operations, the number of stations increased from 36 to 75, with Uhlig planning to have more than 200 stations operational by 2010.
Those benefitting, apart from mother nature, are all 86 registered charities in Bahrain, the amount given to them being in accordance with the number of families they support.
By the end of its first year of operations in March this year, the company plans to have recycled 20,000 tonnes of waste, dishing out BD300,000 to charity. Which is just a fraction of what Bahrain could be recycling, Uhlig says. ‘On average at least 20 per cent of waste is paper and cardboard, 15 per cent is plastic, 10 per cent is metal, and glass accounts around three to five per cent. That means 45 percent of all waste could be easily recycled. So we are recycling 20,000 tonnes out of a possible 800,000 tonnes, which is not all that much.’ Were the entire lot recycled, charities would get an annual windfall of around BD12,000,000. Making your garbage a charitable goldmine. Recycling for Charity currently has 75 recycling stations around Bahrain and can provide companies with recycle containers free of charge. For more information, visit www.recycling-for-charity.com.
What you can recycle
Paper and cardboard Around 20 per cent of all our household waste is paper or cardboard, all of which can be recycled. Each of the Recycling For Charity stations has a paper bin in which you can dispose of your paper. The paper will get pulped, while the cardboard will be shredded for use in animal boxes, after which it can be used as an effective fertilizer.
Plastics There are different grades of plastics, but all of them can be recycled. Pop all the plastic waste you have in the plastic bins in the Recycling For Charity stations and they will sort out the grades and make it ready to be recycled.
Metal All metal is precious, and yet we throw so much of it away. Tins, cans, foil, the lot can be smelted down and used again.
Glass It reputedly takes a million years for a glass bottle to biodegrade, meaning whatever you chuck in a landfill will pretty much be there forever. Any yet they are one of the easiest things to recycle. Recycling For Charity has bins for different coloured glass, so make sure you don’t start shoving a green bottle into the transparent glass slot.
Organic waste You might not fancy starting a wormery with your potato peel, but if you have a garden you could always compost. While Recycling For Charity currently doesn’t want your outside cabbage leaves, plans are afoot to start collecting and composting organic waste.