x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

A green approach can transform trash into treasure

Almost every manufacturer advises customers to think green, whether through advertising campaigns or by stamping the recycle symbol on its products. But more incentive is needed, writes Manar Al Hinai.

UAE companies are encouraging recycling. Amy Leang / The National
UAE companies are encouraging recycling. Amy Leang / The National

Almost every manufacturer advises customers to think green, whether through advertising campaigns or by stamping the recycle symbol on its products or by providing instructions on how consumers can play their part.

But even if a company sells the most eco-friendly products on earth, it cannot control how consumers eventually dispose of them. Do they end up in landfills? Are they donated? Are they recycled? Products made of recyclable material hardly do much good to the environment if they end up in the dustbin.

Unless there are incentives or penalties involved, many will overlook recycling - a simple process but one that would save the UAE lots of money as well as saving time by reducing the volume of waste disposed of every year. Then there is the great impact that recycling will make on preserving the UAE's environment.

Even though environmental organisations in the Emirates are encouraging people to recycle, businesses need to be involved - to take advantage and make a profit by helping their customers to dispose of used products.

The growing concern for the planet's long-term health and the UAE's finite landfills demands that different companies intervene to solve the problem and encourage customers to reuse and recycle products.

Not only will companies be responsible for helping to maintain the UAE's environment, but they will also enhance their image by providing eco-conscious customers with the means of properly disposing of used products, keeping those customers loyal in the process.

Many companies worldwide are taking action. RadioShack, an American franchise of electronics retail stores, collects old rechargeable batteries from customers.

Sainsbury's supermarkets in Britain provide buckets for customers to dispose of old rechargeable batteries for recycling. International cosmetic stores in the UAE have also adopted this initiative.

MAC Cosmetics implemented an environmentally friendly campaign in the UAE. Customers who return six empty MAC make-up containers are rewarded with a choice of a free lip gloss, lipstick, or eye shadow. The great thing about this is that small businesses can take advantage and adopt similar approaches to serve an environmental cause and promote their image to environmentally conscious customers.

A fashion store, for instance, can provide customers who return old or unwanted clothes with a discount on their next purchases, and the store can then donate the goods to charity. Similarly, a dry-cleaning shop can reward its customers with a discount or a voucher for returning hangers and plastic clothing bags.

Some small businesses may have trouble figuring out what to do with recyclable material returned by their customers. If the items included clothing, books or toys, it would be great to partner with the UAE's Red Crescent or any other charity organisation to donate those items.

An interesting approach I read about involved a charity in Kuwait that provides people with free-of-charge pickups of their unwanted sports or running shoes, which it then donates to needy people in Africa.

What is great about this approach is that it relieves busy people of any excuse for not recycling, and it could be easily be adopted by waste-management organisations or manufacturing companies in the UAE.

Mall food courts are also a great place for UAE outlets to do their part to serve the environment. They can provide bins dedicated to plastic, paper and food items. Think about how much plastic and paper waste would be accumulated during the busy weekends alone.

Many consumers like me look for companies that do their part to serve the community and the environment. It is vital for companies not to overlook this market segment, which could become a source of revenue for them.

I always believe that where there is a will, there will not be one way, but thousands of ways.

Businesses should be creative and take responsibility for saving the environment. A customer's trash could be a company's treasure.

After all, it is a win-win situation for all parties involved.

Manar Al Hinai is an Emirati fashion designer and writer. She can be followed on Twitter: @manar_alhinai