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Reduce, recycle, and repurpose your household waste
August 9, 2018 | 11:10 AM
by Gautam Viswanathan
When you help others, you end up helping the planet.
 
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We’ve all been there. That moment where you walk past a person’s home and see a cardboard box of discarded items – sometimes, more than one – filled with odds and ends that most of us would spend no more than a few seconds to give this box and its contents a cursory glance. A few old clothes, too faded to be worn, but still too good to be relegated to the position of mop cloth, chipped mugs, cracked plates, old newspapers, old electronics, bottles that have long gone out of shape, combs with a few broken teeth, the list of what goes into these cardboard boxes with the intention of throwing them out is almost endless.

Yet, as is often repeated, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. To you and I, these discarded items may be of little value, but to a veritable army of people, these cast-offs are vital. Not long after you place this cardboard box outside your door, expecting it to be carted away along with the rest of your household refuse the next day, you’re alerted to a knock on your door.

Standing there is a maid, asking you if she can take the chipped crockery from your box. You agree to it almost immediately. With a little bit of glue and a whole lot of love, she brings the plates back into use, saving her precious funds that instead of being spent on new ones in the shops, can now be sent to her family back home.

All across Oman, although we may not see it, until the people who need these items actually walk up to us asking for them, there is always a market for second-hand items. In addition to providing people with several vital goods that are of great use to them, this culture of repurposing used goods carries a great number of other benefits as well.



For one, it reduces the rampant consumerism that is now unfortunately a part and parcel of our lives. The longer you extend the utility of a particular item, the longer the need to replace it, irrespective of who is using it. In addition, it means less waste is generated as a whole: discarded goods often find their way into dump sites and landfills, but now that they’ve been given a new home, they don’t add to the immediate environmental degradation.

In this case, it was a maid, but it could just as easily have been the municipal worker in green overalls or the man who trims the hedges and sweeps the footpath, asking you for the disused Walkman in the box. It’ll provide him great comfort while he’s out on the job. It may be your water delivery guy requesting the discarded glass and plastic bottles outside – he can exchange them at his company’s bottling plant for some money.

Recycling, says Alhassan Al Nabhani of Be’ah, the Sultanate’s leading waste management and recycling firm, should be ingrained in our culture.

“This is a very important measure to reduce the overall waste generated and landfilled in Oman,” he said. “Be’ah encourages such activities through our community outreach programme and we promote ideas where old materials can be reused. Reuse of materials form part of Be’ah’s waste management hierarchy and is a strategy which we are promoting. Be’ah is working with universities to develop a reuse centre in Oman where old household items can be brought for refurbishment and once refurbished can be sold to interested parties.

“The key responsibility assigned to Be’ah is to restructure, corporatise and privatise the waste management activities across the Sultanate,” added Al Nabhani. “As part of this initiative, Be’ah has supported private companies to set up recycling plants in Oman through issue of No-Objection Letters. Moreover, Be’ah has signed contract with private investors for treatment of car batteries, recycling of used tyres and recycling of construction and demolition waste. Currently Be’ah is working with international experts for development of an electronic waste treatment facility and used cooking oil facility in Oman and other waste streams.

“Furthermore, for sorting facilities are expected to be established in the Sultanate as part of the municipal solid waste management contracts in several parts of Oman. These facilities will help not only recovering material from currently landfilled waste but will provide raw material for downstream processing,” he added.

Recycling can have a positive impact on the world we live in.


Muscat Municipality too, encourages the re-use of goods within the community. An official from the government body said: “If the activity is not commercial and the owner had previously planned to throw these things away, there is no legislation in the municipalities that prevents the person from selling them to another consumer if any person asks to own them. But to conduct a continuous business they must obtain a licence.”

It is not uncommon for people to then ask you if you have any other second-hand goods that you are looking to dispose of, even if it is for a small fee. With a large expat population in the country, the selling of second-hand goods is quite common. While some do approach you for second-hand goods in a face-to-face manner, a growing section of the population chooses to do so through sites such as bayie.com and OLX Arabia, which have a large marketplace for the purchase and sale of second-hand goods.

Manas Xavier, Product Manager for bayie.com said: “The good thing with recycling things is that you can use them over and over again. We have been around for about one year now, because we realised that it was important to give people in Oman a good local platform to buy and sell things. The feedback from the customers so far has been very good, and we are looking to expand further in the future.

What we are seeing is that both Omanis and expats use our site to sell goods, and that is a good sign.”

“We have about 40,000 to 50,000 visitors on our site, and every month, we have between 1,000 and 2,000 new registrations, so there is quite a strong market for recycled goods, especially in the current economy,” added Neema Hamza, digital marketing executive for bayie.com. “Most of the goods we sell are cars and household items, and there is also a strong demand for real estate. I think that buying recycled goods really fits the purpose these days, because you can get good products for a cheaper price. If you can get something for a cheaper amount and it serves your needs, then why not go for it? If you want to decorate your house for example, and there is used furniture available, I think it is a great opportunity to get the things you need at a cheaper rate, so you can get things easily in the long-run. You shouldn’t just throw it away, because it still has some value that can be used by someone else. Until the item begins to degrade, it can be used.”

The ethos of re-using and recycling goods is best explained by John Noja, general manager for OLX Oman.

“Every item for sale has an audience, while every buyer has that one attractive good that they need – leading us to the oldest equation is the history of humanity: an unwanted item at your possession is wanted by someone else within your community,” he told T magazine. “When the Sultanate residents trade items they no longer need or use, the overall supply in the Omani market increases. This leads to lower prices, increasing the quantity of trade and keeping money in the local economy.

“In addition, as the residents sell their unused goods, they have more money to buy what they want,” added Noja, “This increase in demand expands market price and quantity, as well as creating even more local trade. These items can be anything, from baby clothes to mobile phones to cars. This is the true power of classifieds. As part of our commitment as a brand to give back to the community, we have been educating the public on the benefits of using the second hand market, but as a side effect, we are helping the environment by driving user behaviour into adapting to re-using unwanted items instead of disposing them.”

Since the beginning of 2018, the company has seen an item listed on OLX Oman every two minutes, with over 130,000 users browsing thousands of items, which had a total value of OMR 14.5 million. Seven million visits were recorded on the site in the first half of June 2018. Among the most common goods posted were home and garden furniture such as sofas, beds, tables and cupboards, electronic and home appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines, air-conditioners, TVs and gaming consoles and childcare items such as car seats, cribs, strollers, bicycles, and toys.

People were also looking to do away with more expensive goods online, such as mobile phones, with some of the most popular brands being iPhones, Samsung, Huawei, Nokia, and Apple Watches, while others were hawking traditional Omani goods, as well as cosmetics, perfumes, and watches.

“Since mobile is the emerging future of the online business, we have invested heavily in our mobile app and have dedicated mobile teams who are continuously looking for new ways to enhance the user experience across both iOS and Android,” said Noja. “91% of the traffic to OLX Oman comes from mobile.”

If one were to extrapolate the items available on OLX and Bayie with the people who needed them the most, the lines drawn become very obvious. Second-hand goods are a boon for many lower-income groups, while many of the goods they receive are in very good condition.

“This is very important as recycling can have a positive impact on the world we live in, the natural environment around us and us as humans in the long term,” said Antonia Vegh, events and volunteer coordinator at the Environmental Society of Oman. “It is important to take action as soon as possible on the issue of recycling as the amount of waste is increasing rapidly. Recycling also reduces energy consumption and it helps conserve natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals. Having said this, recycling is not the ultimate solution for the increased waste issue, rather an approach of ‘Refuse’ and ‘Reduce’ should be adopted.

“In line with ESO’s objective to raise awareness in the community, we advocate the importance of recycling and the importance of the three “R”s, which are Refuse, Reduce and Recycle,” she added. “We engage with different segments of the society across all regions of the Sultanate. Garbage disposed off emits harmful chemicals and greenhouse gases which in return increase the pollution, contribute to climate change, habitat destruction and deforestation to mention a few.”

Vegh added that although a culture of recycling was still nascent in Oman, a good practice of any society was to encourage a culture of recycling, so that future generations would know not just the value of the things we buy and own, but also the importance of keeping the environment clean.

“The first step to promoting a culture of recycling is definitely awareness,” she told T magazine. “As responsible members of a society, we need to adopt the recycling culture which begins with being responsible consumers in all aspects of our daily lives.

John Noja added: “We have done research with Allcot Group, which showed us that Oman residents exchanged 416,543 items in 13 different categories through OLX Oman in 2017, resulting in savings of three million tons of CO2 emissions. Hence, we are proud of the role we play and our contribution to a sustainable environment.”[email protected]

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