12 Nov 2020
Soliman, Tunisia
Resource Efficiency and Sustainable Waste Management

Karim Ourimi discovered his passion for recycling by an unusual path. Around 2005, Ourimi’s former employer assigned him to a new business unit, which would focus on collecting, transporting, and recycling waste. Ourimi threw himself into his new work and, after a decade, started out as an independent recycling entrepreneur. “My dream is to see a world without landfills,” he said proudly.

Ourimi is now the founder and general manager of Green Solutions Industries, a Tunisian company specialised on plastic and paper recycling. Established just last year, the business has already grown, reaching more customers and hiring more staff. But Ourimi’s team, like other recycling entrepreneurs in Tunisia, must now work tirelessly to involve more and more compatriots in their eco-friendly mission.

In some ways, Ourimi’s career path has mirrored developments in Tunisia’s national approach to recycling. In the late 1990s, Tunisia led African countries in adopting the revolutionary ECOLEF, a public-private partnership for collecting, sorting, and re-selling plastic waste to recyclers. 

The government-backed initiative sparked huge interest in responsible waste management, with 226 new recycling companies becoming established. Yet, according to Ourimi, these heady days have recently given way to a lack of state direction, as Tunisia has undergone political turmoil.

On current figures, Tunisia has plenty of scope for improving its recycling performance. As at 2019, the country only managed to recycle 4% of all waste generated, despite having set a 2016 target of recycling 70% of total waste. A World Wide Fund for Nature report suggests that Tunisia loses millions of dollars every year due to plastic pollution, which hampers the tourism and fishing sectors (amongst others).

Now, more than ever, Tunisia needs recycling entrepreneurs like Ourimi to keep eco-conscious businesses moving. In 2015, Ourimi quit his former job, determined to set up his standalone recycling outfit. He was armed with his passion for recycling, deep industry know-how, and “an important contact book.”

It has taken Ourimi longer to attract the start-up capital necessary for creating a new recycling plant. At first, he started a cut-price enterprise for a few hundred euros, and gratefully received support from friends. This support carried Ourimi through to establishing Green Solutions Industries, which now services corporate, business, and government clients all over Tunisia.

The growth of Green Solutions Industries can also be observed inside the company’s headquarters, where Ourimi gradually invested in plant and equipment. “Like a baby, we saw the plant growing a little more every day, until we could finally put our machines in place and start operating,” said Ourimi.

Green Solutions Industries demonstrates that the journey to establishing a recycling company in Tunisia is not an easy road. But, with a little determination, the sky’s the limit.

 

Learn more about Green Solutions Industries through the website and Facebook.

Photos courtesy of Green Solutions Industries

David Wood is a freelance writer and researcher based in Beirut. He previously worked in Cairo.David Wood
The Accidental Recycler: Tunisian entrepreneur finds himself leading plastic recycling movement | The Switchers
Green Solutions Industries Resource Efficiency and Sustainable Waste Management
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