22 Sep 2017
Casablanca, Morocco
Resource efficiency and sustainable waste management

At restaurants and hotels around the world, the solution to used cooking oil may seem like a no brainer: you walk across your kitchen, and pour it down the drain. This, it turns out, is a terrible idea.

Take recent news reports: a build-up of used oil recently wreaked havoc with London’s sewage network when a huge congealed glob was found during a routine inspection. As The Guardian reports, the mass weighed an estimated 130 tons. Experts say the situation could have been avoided altogether had people properly disposed of their used oil.

According to Youssef Chaqor, the improper disposal of used oil in Morocco could do similar damage. Chaqor is the Founder and General Manager of Kilimanjaro Environment, a company formed to save the value of used oil from going down the drain. The business offers hotels and restaurants across Morocco the opportunity to have their used oil collected and repurposed as second-generation biofuel.

Similar to many countries in the MENA region, Morocco does not regulate the disposal of used cooking oil. As well as potentially causing scenarios similar to the one faced in London, the situation in Morocco could be more environmentally devastating. In communities without proper wastewater treatment facilities, used oil is often destined directly for the sea.

An entrepreneur’s journey:

Chaqor is no stranger to the field of used oils. Before founding Kilimanjaro Environment, he worked for a decade in the corporate world, including with Savola, an edible cooking oil company.

But the business spark for Kilimanjaro Environment came not in a corporate office, but in a much more natural environment. In 2008, Chaqor and his wife vacationed in Tanzania, and set out to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak.

As he trekked through thin air and over glacial paths, Chaqor found clarity in the many questions he had about his entrepreneurial desires. “I realized that I got more personal satisfaction from the impact that I could have on society,” Chaqor recalls. “I decided I wanted my business to bridge value creation and impact, and having worked in the used oil industry, I knew focusing on this and the environment was the most effective way to do that.”

The name of Chaqor’s company still, of course, pays testament to its original inspiration.

Morocco’s market for used cooking oil:

In a report on the state of Morocco’s oil market, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) predicts demand for cooking oil will continue to increase as average household incomes rise. Morocco consumes more than 550,000 tons of cooking oil each year, double the amount used two decades earlier.

Chaqor estimates Kilimanjaro Environment can collect almost one fifth of that used oil. The business already gathers oil from 4,000 hotels and restaurants across the country, and Chaqor estimates there are around 20,000 locations to which they could expand.

Restaurants and hotels that sign on with Kilimanjaro Environment are given the opportunity to preserve the environment while also gaining value from their used oil. Unlike dumping used oil down the drain — which either ends up in the Mediterranean or has to be processed at a cost by a local wastewater management service — Kilimanjaro Environment pays for what it collects.

After providing businesses with commercial drums for their kitchen, restaurants and hotels are paid up to $400 per ton of used oil — an amount larger establishments reach every month. Oil is collected as part of a scheduled pickup, and restaurants can also ask for immediate service using Kilimanjaro Environment’s mobile application.

One of Kilimanjaro Environment’s collection customers is KFC Morocco. Six of the chain’s restaurants in Casablanca have been selling their used oil to Kilimanjaro Environment for the past two years. “Kilimanjaro is the most professional company I’ve dealt with in my 15 years with KFC, including in the Gulf and Egypt,” says Eid Hassan, the Chain Manager for KFC restaurants in Morocco. He notes that prior to forming the partnership, the KFC restaurants had their oil collected through an ad hoc agreement with one individual. According to Hassan, the partnership is not just about good business: “The environment aspect was important, since KFC already takes other measures to keep Morocco clean, such as using approved cooking oil.”

While collecting oil from restaurants and hotels makes a difference, Chaqor says the real potential market is in Moroccan households. According to him, that is where up to 80% of the country’s total oil use lies. “We are trying to address professional businesses in Morocco first, and then develop an alternative channel for households,” Chaqor says.

Processing used oil as biofuel:

Once it collects the used oil from hotels and restaurants, Kilimanjaro Environment produces second generation biofuel.

Unlike first generation biofuel that comes from crops that are grown for food consumption, second generation biofuel is produced with used oil, animal fat, and other materials that have lost their value. Chaqor views this as much more ethical than using the sunflower, soya, and palm oils of the world. “With those, you are turning potential food into energy, and I didn’t think that was right,” he explains.

Used oil collection saves value from going down the drain | The Switchers
Used oil collection saves value from going down the drain | The Switchers

While ensuring greater food security, Chaqor says their second generation biofuel also reduces CO2 emissions by 84% when compared to a liter of diesel. One of Kilimanjaro Environment’s next business steps is to launch a small biofuel manufacturing plant in Morocco — the country’s first.

Local biofuel production has currently only been done for academic research, with a 2015 study finding that the biofuel produced from used Moroccan oil met European standards. Until Kilimanjaro Environment’s biofuel production starts, they plan to continue shipping their used oil to Europe for production.

At-home recycling goes beyond used oil:

Kilimanjaro Environment also has a side hustle: a waste recycling application called EkoGeste.

“When we were addressing how to collect used oil from households, we learned about a different business, and created another business model,” Chaqor says. That business model is, what he calls, “the Uber of waste collection.”

The free EkoGeste application offers residents across Morocco the chance to recycle and reduce their environmental footprint. Once they have sorted their organic waste and dry recyclables such as cardboard, paper, and plastic, homeowners can use the app to call a member of Kilimanjaro Environment’s sorting team. Those sorters pick up the waste and bring them to a facility to be properly recycled.

Morocco has a large industry of informal waste collection, and Chaqor’s goal with the EkoGeste app is to transform those collectors into entrepreneurial recyclers who are rewarded for the waste they collect. As for homeowners, they receive incentives from recycling companies for putting in the extra sorting effort.

For now, EkoGeste is part of Kilimanjaro Environment’s business model, though the hope is to raise between EUR 500,000 and EUR 700,000 to eventually launch the initiative as its own independent company.

With Morocco’s first used oil collection company established and growing, and other environmental projects on the way, Chaqor and his team are out to make sure Kilimanjaro Environment fulfills its original vision: good business with an impact.

 

 

Website: www.ekogeste.com

Facebook, EkoGeste app: www.facebook.com/EkoGesteMaroc

Photos: Courtesy of Kilimanjaro Environment.

Hilary is a journalist, photographer, and maker of things. She loves working with entrepreneurs to share their stories and has done so around the world.Hilary Duff
Used oil collection saves value from going down the drain | The Switchers
Kilimanjaro Environment Resource Efficiency & Sustainable Waste Management
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