Why we invested: Bekia is improving waste recycling and generating income for Egyptians
Egypt produces an annual average of 90 million tons of solid waste, and only about half of it is collected. Unfortunately, only 12% of household solid waste is recycled, and the rest ends up in the environment, such as in open landfills, rivers, and waterways. This causes a range of issues, including pollution, crop and farm soil damage, and potential health issues. With increasing extreme hydrological events in recent decades, solid waste is expected to cause much more pollution and harm to crops, farm soil, surface water, and groundwater and to cause diseases and health issues to humans, livestock, and aquatics, which directly and indirectly affect the food security of the nation.
Cairo and Giza produce the most waste, with an estimated 30% of Egypt’s solid waste coming from these two regions. In total, they generate 27 million tons of solid waste annually, and most of this waste consists of paper and plastic. This huge quantity of recyclable paper and plastic waste adds up to a potential market of $4.5 billion, which is currently collected by the “Zabbaleen” – local collectors who, for some 80 years, have moved carts door-to-door collecting waste in Cairo. This organized force of 50,000 waste processors, 150,000 collectors, sorters, traders, and truck drivers, recycles 80% of everything they collect, but are not perceived by the public as recyclers.
With a forecasted doubling of waste generation in the region by 2050, urgent action must be taken in Egypt. Bekia is working on a digitally-enabled solution to address these major problems.
Through a mobile app, a web platform, or Whatsapp, Bekia offers users (companies and households) a way to monetize their waste while being able to dispose of it in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. People can select 400+ types of valuable waste and see the proposed value based on weight. Bekia then collects the waste and rewards users with cash on the Bekia e-wallet. Users can then withdraw this cash anywhere. Once collected, the waste is split. Plastic and paper are sold to recycling factories, e-waste is handled by in-house technicians, and then 60% is resold once reconditioned. Otherwise sold separately, used cooking oil is sold to another startup.
Bekia’s environmental impact has been significant since its inception. Its model has facilitated the collection and recycling of 1,000+ tons of waste since 2020. In addition, based on estimated CO2 emissions savings by material recycled, over 2,050 tons of CO2 emissions have been saved by Bekia’s activity since 2019. This is equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions of around 800 people in Egypt. A total of +9M plastic bottles have been collected through the platform from more than 60,000 Egyptian households, and 80% of their users are women.
In 2021, Bekia signed a partnership with Nestle Pure Life through which water bottles made 100% of recycled plastic are tagged with a QR code allowing consumers to scan and recycle the bottles. Similarly, Bekia has an agreement in place with its banking partner CIB, Egypt’s largest bank, to recycle all of the expired bank cards from their payment system.
Each month, Bekia pays on average $10 to each household for recycling with its system, providing each with extra income. Bekia has also facilitated the direct creation of 20 full-time jobs, with more economic impact expected as they continue to expand.
Founded in 2020, Bekia has already achieved over $750K in revenue and over 65k user registrations. In 2022 so far, Bekia has managed to generate impressive revenue growth, of which around 30% goes to households. Additionally, the startup has managed to collect a total of 40 tons of waste per month, excluding e-waste. The number of active users who regularly participate in recycling has reached a total of 4.5K, while around 50+ orders are processed daily. Finally, the startup works with over 150 B2B customers, staying true to its mission of creating a sustainable and circular economy.
Despite Bekia’s impressive traction, they are still scratching the surface. The growth potential is enormous as they expand outside Cairo and Egypt, as well as both corporates, to advance towards ESG goals and households becoming more aware of the need for reducing waste and start recycling their waste.
The Catalyst Fund model delivers outsized success compared with other accelerator programs. We accelerate startups that excel on three fronts:
- Impact: Catalyst Fund startups deliver (or, in the case of B2B firms, facilitate the delivery of) life-changing products and services to underserved populations. These can include financial services like loans, savings, insurance, and investment, but also access to productive inputs or essential services such as energy, sanitation, and water.
- Innovation: Our startups are pioneering game-changers that are innovating new products and business models. They drive the sector forward by demonstration effect and via the learning that Catalyst Fund documents and shares.
- Growth potential: Catalyst Fund startups are distinctively investment-worthy, developing businesses that are scalable, with high growth potential. Our startups raise more funding than startups from other accelerators.