The world produces over 2 billion tons of waste a year. This waste is dumped in landfills, oceans, or burned, systemically leading to the dramatic deterioration of ecosystems everywhere. According to the World Bank, at 23 percent, East Asia and the Pacific region are reported to produce most of the world’s waste, whereas the MENA region produces the least amount of waste at only 6 percent.
Despite this, by 2050, waste produced in the MENA region is said to more than triple as population and life expectancy continues to grow. Yet, as waste in the MENA region continues to pile up, there remains a lack of impactful recycling initiatives and systems in play, which will have major implications on the environment and well-being of communities throughout the region.
Yousef and Aya Khatib are leading Palestine's up-and-coming recycling movement with MNJM, the country's leading recycling management company based in Ramallah. MENACatalyst reached out to MNJM’s founders to learn how they are introducing the world of recycling to Palestinians everywhere.
What exactly is MNJM and how does it work?
MNJM is a recycling management company that was founded in May 2018. At MNJM, we collect materials like plastic, cartons and cardboard, and even metal from householders and distribute them to facilities that can recycle them or to factories that can reuse them.
The first and most important stage is raising awareness. We get involved during the initial recycling processing stage. We collect, sort, and distribute the materials to the appropriate facilities. We work directly with our MNJM community of householders, as well as processing facilities and factories that receive the recyclable materials.
We have a dedicated team of volunteers who help us collect and deliver the recyclables to our storage facilities. More than anything, MNJM has become a community of people who care about their environment and want to make a change.
How is MNJM innovating the recycling process in Palestine?
We recently launched our MNJM app, which is a platform that allows our community to keep track of their recyclables, schedule collections, redeem their points, and stay updated with the latest MNJM news via push notifications.
How did MNJM get its start?
We started by raising awareness about the importance of recycling in Palestine because this is still new here, and not many people are aware of it. And we realized that if MNJM was going to grow, we needed to create a community of people who cared about the environment and finding sustainable ways to minimize waste just as much as we do.
So to create the platform and bring people in we started a Facebook page. To our surprise, in just a short period, our MNJM community on Facebook grew to over a thousand members. And the people the page reached had some awareness about recycling, or they had traveled and were exposed to recycling initiatives in different countries around the world. It was amazing, because they were on board from the get-go, they were like yes we support this, how do we join, and who do we call to collect our recyclables.
At this point, we realized that MNJM had to move beyond awareness and take action. Because without that, there would be no point to the awareness we were creating. So MNJM grew out of this. We would help people who wanted to recycle but didn’t know how or where to go, and we connect with manufacturers who were interested in reusing raw materials. In fact, many manufacturers in Palestine prefer to use recycled materials because it helps them save money and avoid the taxes of buying new raw materials.
How is MNJM introducing the people of Palestine to the world of recycling?
The first step is raising awareness, and we do this in different ways. First, through our Facebook group, we are spreading the word and gaining new members every day. We also work directly with people through the workshops that we regularly organize with key stakeholders. Basically, through these workshops, we aim to introduce communities of all ages to the importance recycling and how to adopt more sustainably conscious decisions to impact our environment and future.
As part of our strategy, we have adopted a reward system to incentivize recycling. So for every item you recycle, you get points that are redeemable through our dedicated application. Rewards include tote bags, reusable water bottles, and users can even donate their points to our Living Green initiative to have a tree planted on their behalf.
Any plans to expand beyond Ramallah?
Of course! We started in Ramallah, and everyone working with us is from there. But our community extends throughout Palestine. But what is really meaningful to us is how people are sharing what we do with their friends, family, and colleagues. This has helped our platform gain a steady footing in major cities, and because of this, we are working on our initial expansion to Nablus and Bethlehem.
What is the impact you are working to achieve with MNJM?
In Palestine, households are responsible for 80% of the country’s waste, and 60% of this is solid waste that can be recycled. With MNJM, we want to help reduce this waste and foster a new generation of Palestinians who don’t just care about the environment but share their knowledge with others, and most importantly, choose to live environmentally sustainable lives.
To learn more about MNJM visit: http://www.mnjm.ps
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