“We are excited to see what we can achieve with PepsiCo’s Greenhouse Accelerator program, as we work to bridge gaps in waste management processes by introducing affordable technologies that improve recycling.”
We have witnessed how the waste crisis negatively affected people’s quality of life first-hand in Lebanon. “RESECO” was our response to the crisis. In January 2020, RESECO, a project that we are passionate about, came to life and involved in operating a small waste sorting facility as well as a door-to-door waste collection service. The project worked with three municipalities to recycle more than 18,000 plastic bottles every month.
Rising fuel prices and the COVID-19 pandemic led to operational limitations and thin margins, challenging RESECO’s ability to sustain. But it also exacerbated a well-known issue, not limited to small start-ups. Many large waste management companies lose millions of dollars every year because, on a global average, 85 percent of recyclables are not recovered for recycling. This is due to several inefficiencies in waste management processes that companies struggled to measure previously and, as the saying goes, you can’t improve what you don’t measure.
Recognizing the need to address these inefficiencies, we pivoted and rebranded our startup to Diwama, which stands for Digital Waste Management, and shifted our focus to using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve waste sorting and recycling, from source to disposal and treatment. Diwama provides an AI-based image recognition software that automates waste composition, measurement, and analysis. Using a simple camera and an AI algorithm, we were able to detect different types and brands of waste to help both consumers and waste facilities sort better and recycle more.
However, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s sustainability market is still in its nascent stages, with slow technology adoption in waste management and a small market size. While some countries have efficient collection and transportation systems, they do not always follow adequate source segregation. A transition toward circular economy models is currently underway with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Circular Economy Policy 2021-2031, which presents a significant opportunity for entrepreneurs to optimize the segregation process at the source and at waste facilities by leveraging technology and the Internet of Things.
Smart bins, drones, AI, and data analytics are all expected to be deployed in the next decade to improve recycling efficiency. For example, we are currently working with a customer in the UAE to integrate our AI into their mobile application to help consumers sort waste better at home. Users can scan confusing waste items with their phone camera and the AI program will tell them where to properly dispose of those items.
PepsiCo’s efforts in sustainability and their commitments to ambitious waste-reducing goals presented an opportunity for us to expand in the UAE market with the help of the Greenhouse Accelerator Program: MENA edition. The PepsiCo team helped us understand our legal obligations related to data collection and usage, and supported us in negotiating terms and conditions and pricing with customers. This collaboration between startups and multinational corporations is critical in helping startups access large-market players, high-level expertise, and significant resources, in addition to helping corporations be more innovative, resilient, and fast in implementing new projects.
We are excited to see what we can achieve with the help of PepsiCo’s Greenhouse Accelerator Program, as we work to bridge gaps in waste management processes by introducing affordable technologies that improve recycling.
Christopher Arida & Aya Hariri
Co-founders of Diwama