An interview with Omniya


1. Please introduce yourselves to our readers.

We are a group of three Kuwaitis; Sanaa Al-Ghemlas, Saud AlFozan and myself Farah Shaban, trying to change the waste recycling culture by being the change and lead by example. The three of us aiming to start a PET recycling factory by changing the segregation from the source culture to help Kuwait to manage the massive waste the community produces.

2. Tell us about your education and work background.

Sanaa is a film direction graduate and has some experience in manufacturing. Saud is a History graduate with finance experience while I have completed my graduation in mass communication and have training and operation experience.

3. How did the three of you meet and how did the idea of recycling plastic come up?

Sanaa and I are friends and our friendship goes back to over 10 years back, Saud is her nephew. The idea came from Sanaa since she was working in a plastic food packaging factory. While working there she noticed how much we as a community use plastic on a daily basis and how much we dump this plastic in landfills. We as a group thought that it’s time to reduce the plastic waste by starting to change the community behaviour and at the same time start a recycling industry.

4. When did you officially start and who supported you in the project?

We started on August 5th 2015 with a simple message to our contacts list to give them collection boxes to start collecting water bottles. Fortunately, from the very beginning, we got supporter from the community and officials like the Minister of Social Affairs – Ms Hind Alsabeeh and the Chairman of the Environmental Public Authority – Shaikh Abdullah Al-Homud Al-Sabah. The first year we distributed over 4,500 boxes and visited over 95 schools and colleges to raise awareness.

5. What were some of the major challenges you had to face to start the Omniya project?

One of the first major challenges was the size of our team (only 2 actually working in the operations), the distribution of boxes and the collection of full bags. Then came the logistics issue which was the next challenge, we had to use our personal cars to do that. After that, we faced the major challenges which were financing and finding the industrial land to build our factory but with the help of the National Fund for SMEs we came over these challenges.

6. What types of plastics do you collect?

In the beginning, we collected only PET plastic but now that we have outdoor collection containers in over 29 location and 2 collection centers we are collecting all kinds of plastic to protect our landfills from all plastics.

7. Can you highlight some of the major problems caused by plastic waste?

Dumping plastic in landfills is one of the major problems as it will not decompose in a thousand years and Kuwait land size is too small to dump all our waste. Dumping plastic in the sea will destroy marine life and kill our fish and sea birds.

8. Where is your collection centre? Please describe your storage and recycling facility?

We have 29 collection containers at 29 Co-ops in different areas located in all Kuwait governorates. We have 2 collection centres in Kaifan and Yarmouk areas where we receive all kinds of plastic, papers and cardboards and give out collection boxes for free. Our recycling facility is located in Jahra Industrial area where we have our storage and the production line in which we transfer the collected plastic to raw material again.

9. How much plastic has been collected so far?

We can’t give you the exact figure but it is way far from what we should collect according to Kuwait’s consumption of plastic.

10. What do you do with the recycled material?

The recycled material is sold to the plastic factory where it is utilized in the manufacturing of different products like clothes, shoes, plastic sheets, and other different products.

11. What kind of challenges do you face today?

Collection and awareness.

12. How can people contact you to request for recycling box?

They can find the collection boxes in the collection centers at Kaifan and Yarmouk.

13. What are some of your future plans?

To have the first recycle city in the region and we dream to have it in Kuwait, where we have all different types of waste recycling factories and to have zero waste then.

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