Nadeera: Transforming Waste Management at COP28 and Beyond
Merlin Chacko
SME Stories

Nadeera: Transforming Waste Management at COP28 and Beyond

Nadeera, a cleantech startup, showcased its impact at COP28, highlighting a tech-driven shift in MENA's waste management landscape. Explore their innovative solution, Yalla Return, and the impactful milestones that position them as a leading force in the sustainability space.

In the wake of their impactful participation at COP28, Nadeera, a cleantech startup, has been thrust into the global spotlight and recognised as a pivotal force in the waste management sector of the MENA region. Founded as a response to the waste crisis that shook Lebanon in 2015, Nadeera’s story is one of passion, innovation, and an unending commitment to sustainability. 

Co-founder, Reem Khattar, shares “Nadeera was a result of the building waste crisis that erupted in Lebanon in 2015, that made headlines and drove us into acting against ‘end of the pipe’ and ‘business-as-usual” practices.’ It revealed the magnitude of the untapped value and lost opportunities due to the waste mismanagement we see, especially in this part of the world.”

Digitizing the waste value chain 

Summarizing the essence of the startup, Reem explains, “Nadeera is a waste management social enterprise that focuses on maximizing recycling through technology-enabled behavioral change. We engage and educate consumers about circularity, trace and verify actions, and provide feedback and rewards”. 

At the core of Nadeera’s mission is their main product - Yalla Return - a digital platform and technology suite that helps redefine and provide more traceability across the waste management chain. 

“It combines an interactive mobile application, a proprietary IoT system for tracking, an AI waste recognition software for waste inspection, smart bins, and reverse vending machines”. Reem further elaborates on the functionalities of their in-house toolkit, “Through this technology suite, we have digitized and personalized the waste value chain and allowed for the end-to-end traceability of recyclables from the point of their generation to the point they are circulated back into the economy, rewarding stakeholders at every step.”

Tangible results at COP28

At COP28, Nadeera seized the unique opportunity to demonstrate the real-world efficacy of their solution, standing out as the event’s designated waste traceability program in the Blue Zone.

Reem details their impactful role, “Yalla Return’s bags were used in the recyclables-dedicated compartments of the 177 public waste bins available at the event. These bags were individually scanned, inspected, sorted and analyzed with the purpose of documenting spatial and temporal trends, analyzing behavioral patterns and maximizing user engagement through targeted interventions”. 

The innovative use of special, digitally-traceable waste collection bags enabled event organizers to capture vital metrics and uncover user behavior patterns. With their incredible participation, Nadeera was able to divert 2.5 tons of clean recyclables, contributing to significant environmental benefits, including the avoidance of 8.7 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, saving 61 cubic meters of landfill space, and achieving 23 MWH in energy savings. 

Nadeera’s participation in COP28 validated their commitment to sustainable waste management and opened doors to new partnerships. But more importantly, it gave them a global platform to demonstrate the tangible impact achievable through their product. 

Charting success with data

In the realm of numbers, Nadeera’s impact has been nothing short of transformative. With over 26,000 households seamlessly integrated into the Yalla Return platform across the UAE, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia, the startup is actively shaping waste management in 100 diverse communities. Their dynamic approach spans both B2B2C and B2C models, with industry giants such as Pepsico, Nestle, Talabat, Al Dar, and Puck aligning with their vision. 

Reem Khattar sheds light on their diverse clientele, stating, “Our primary targets range from waste management companies enhancing sustainability offerings, property management organizations wanting to reduce their waste management bills, and corporations striving to elevate their sustainability practices”.

In the past nine months alone, Nadeera has recovered an impressive 500 tons of recyclables. Beyond environmental impact, they have facilitated over $10,000 in financial rewards for users. 

As we discuss the future, Reem mentions that they have ambitious goals. The company envisions servicing over 32,000 households in three countries by the end of 2023, with a remarkable 95% user retention rates in certain contexts. Nadeera primarily generated revenue through the sale of recyclables and offering their innovative tech suite as a service to partners.

Financially, the numbers are equally impressive, with $413,000 raised in investments to date. In 2022 alone, they recorded over $400,000 in revenue, and are poised to more than double that figure this year. 

Walking the talk

I was curious to see how Nadeera incorporates sustainability ethos into their own operations. Creating an outstanding product is one thing, but implementing it with the same dedication internally is another. To my delight, Nadeera sets a commendable example. Reem succinctly shares five ways they achieve this:

1. All their bags are collected and returned to the supplier, where they undergo recycling to be transformed into new bags. 

2. In their Smart Bins, they deploy level sensors to optimize the collection process and reduce the number of required collection trips.

3. Whenever feasible, they opt for solar-powered Smart Bins.

4. They depend on existing waste collectors to eliminate the need to run their own logistics operations. 

5. They limit material production and printing across all areas and phases of their operations. 

What does the future hold? 

In the immediate future, Nadeera has its eyes set on expansion into Egypt and Oman, a testament to its dynamic growth. Looking further ahead, the ambitious plan involves long-term plans to enter the North American market. 

Nadeera’s extensive experience across diverse countries provides insights into the receptiveness of entities and individuals to accept and engage in sustainable practices. The condition? It has to be accessible and appealing. 

Reem reflects, “Governments, businesses, and people are aware of the importance of waste diversion and are willing to engage if the proposed journey is easy, convenient, rewarding and sustainable”. This proves that Nadeera’s success in capturing attention and increasing engagement lies in its innovative solution, that is user-friendly and easy to integrate into the daily lives of communities. 

In her own words, the co-founder shares her takeaways for new businesses: “The key is to identify the exact pain points of your end user and try to address that as specifically as possible, and that’s only possible when you collect as much feedback from the users and be willing to adapt and pivot your solution to align with their needs. Integrating the end user into the value chain increases the efficacy of downstream operations and reduces the need for expensive solutions, all while improving their satisfaction and meeting your impact goals. This will apply across any business going into the market, especially in the sustainability and circularity areas, as the demand is continuing to grow, and the opportunities are endless.”