Dubai plastic waste-to-clothes startup looks to KSA

DGrade Managing Director Emma Barber said the plant can process 150,000 bottles per hour and 75 million bottles per month. (Supplied)
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Updated 24 June 2021

Dubai plastic waste-to-clothes startup looks to KSA

  • The company converts plastic bottles — collected from schools, events and businesses across the city — into clothes
  • The UAE produces at least 10 million recyclable bottles per day

ABU DHABI: A Dubai company that makes clothing from plastic water bottles plans to expand in Saudi Arabia and Egypt after the pandemic forced a complete rethink of its business model.

DGrade was established by Kris Barber in 2010 to address the vast amount of plastic water bottles being produced in the UAE.

The company converts plastic bottles — collected from schools, events and businesses across the city — into clothes.

(DGrade website)

But when the pandemic closed schools across the country, DGrade was forced to rethink how it operates. It also provided the impetus for the company to consider moving into new regional markets.

The clothes-making process begins by putting the plastic through hot and cold washing until it turns into flakes.

“Once we have the flakes, they’re then put through an extrusion process and turned into a fiber,” Emma Barber, managing director of DGrade, told Arab News. Its plant takes about 150,000 bottles per hour and 75 million bottles per month, she added.

Dubai British School event. (Dgrade Website)

Before the pandemic, the team used to collect plastics from schools and events around Dubai, Barber said. But with the closure of schools and a ban on events, DGrade was faced with a potential halt in its raw material.

Despite the closures, it still managed to collect 1 million bottles in the 2019-2020 school year.

“A lot of children have been collecting plastics at home, bringing them to schools and dropping them off,” Barber said.

Simply Bottles Al Mamzar Clean-up, November 2018. (DGrade website)

“We’re planning to expand in Saudi Arabia because of the huge population and also the amount of plastic.”

She said Egypt is also attractive because of its huge population, plastic waste issues and an already well-established textiles sector.

DGrade also plans to import plastic from Gulf countries. It is coordinating with companies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar to bail plastic and bring it to the UAE, Barber added.

Simply Bottles Green Fair, ENOC head office. (DGrade website)

On financial support from the banks, she said: “We’ve been looking for some working capital in terms of bridging loans. It has been difficult because the banks are unable to give you that kind of money due to local legislation and restrictions.”

But she said DGrade will soon announce a second round of investment with a large European company that plans to take an equity share.

“Without the investment that we managed to obtain, it would’ve been almost impossible to fund what we’ve done so far on our own,” Barber added.

To expand the business further, she said it coordinated with some companies to place outdoor bins at private events, which are chargeable at 100 UAE dirhams ($27.23) per month, in order to collect as many bottles as possible.

“We’re talking to ministries, waste management companies and private sector organizations to see if we can place larger cages into residential and community areas so people can place plastic at their convenience,” she added.

Dubai Chamber Sustainability Network. (DGrade website)

Like many companies large and small, DGrade was forced to slash costs during the pandemic. It moved to a smaller office, reduced staff wages and made half of their team redundant, Barber said.

The UAE produces at least 10 million recyclable bottles per day and the output is 18 million kg per year of recycled flake, she added.

Multiple companies have switched back to bottled water and away from dispensers in order to keep their staff safe, she said.

DGrade targets uniform or work-wear companies across all sectors. It has developed 200 types of fabric, all from recycled polyester.

Expo 2020 Dubai T-shirts @Expo 2020 Winter Festival Sale, December 2019. (DGrade website)

“The traditional fashion industry is highly polluting and damaging to the environment,” said Barber. “Traditional fabrics, such as cotton, are highly water- and land-intensive. They also use pesticides and fertilizers.”

Every year, 100 billion garments are produced worldwide and 92 million tons become waste, according to a 2021 BBC Earth report.

DGrade’s aim is not to promote the use of plastic, but to ensure that when it is used it is being responsibly managed and recycled, Barber said.

“In 99 percent of cases, recyclable plastic is the greenest packaging option available. It’s far better for the environment to use plastic than glass, aluminum or paper,” she added.

DGrade’s process of converting plastic to clothes produces 55 percent fewer carbon emissions, and uses 20 percent less water (which it recycles and reuses) and 50 percent less energy, she said.

Inflation in Saudi Arabia likely to decline in coming months

Updated 27 min 17 sec ago

Inflation in Saudi Arabia likely to decline in coming months

  • Credit to private companies will increase, depending on the Saudi economy recovery, says Al-Sudairi

RIYADH: The inflation rate in Saudi Arabia is expected to be 3.2 percent and the rate would decline because of a higher base, Mazen Al-Sudairi, head of research at Al-Rajhi Capital, told Arab News.

The cost of living index of Saudi Arabia remained in the positive trajectory and increased by 6.2 percent year-on-year in June 2021, mainly driven by a rise in value-added tax (VAT) from 5 percent to 15 percent in July 2020, according to Al-Rajhi Capital.

Saudi spending in the local market, especially in the retail, food, and beverages, and health segments continues to support the economy, it added.

Point of sales transactions continued their uptrend, increasing 4.6 percent in June 2021 compared to June of last year, primarily driven by an increase in restaurants and hotels, clothing and footwear, and health segments, Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) data revealed.

Credit to the private sector increased 16.8 percent year-on-year in June, while bank claims on the public sector increased 9.6 percent and the deposits grew by 10.2 percent, the official data showed.

Credit to private companies will increase, depending on the Saudi economy recovery, said Al-Sudairi.

SAMA also pointed out in its latest monthly report that remittances from Saudi nationals increased by 56 percent year-on-year in June 2021, while remittances growth from non-Saudi nationals declined 3.4 percent.

Remittance for Saudis increased due to an increase in travel while for expats the trend remains broadly flat, Al-Sudairi added.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that Saudi Arabia’s economy is recovering well from the pandemic, and the Kingdom opened its doors to vaccinated foreign tourists on Aug.1.

Saudi Arabian youth use less cash as Kingdom pushes for cashless society

Updated 04 August 2021

Saudi Arabian youth use less cash as Kingdom pushes for cashless society

  • Only 18 percent of Saudis aged between 16 and 22 years use cash
  • Almost half of people 60 and above use cash

RIYADH: Youth in Saudi Arabia are using less cash compared to other age groups, a sign that the Kingdom’s plans to create a cashless society is on course.

Only 18 percent of Saudis aged between 16 and 22 years use cash, while almost half of people who are 60 and above use cash till date, a report by Fintech Saudi showed.

The report also showed that 20 percent of the population in central region of Saudi Arabia, which includes the capital Riyadh, use cash in their everyday transactions, while 37 percent of those living in the western region use paper money in their daily dealings.

However, paper currency is far from total demise even as the overall number of transactions carried out using cash have declined. Fintech Saudi’s survey results showed that around 60 percent of individuals Kingdom-wide still rely on paper money at least once a week and one out of four people in Saudi use cash every day.

Under Saudi Vision 2030, the Kingdom aims to increase the number of non-cash transactions to 70 percent in 2025.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has led to an acceleration in cashless activity with digital payments increasing by 75 percent over the past year, whilst cash withdrawals from ATMs and other payment points have declined by 30 percent over the same period,” the report said.

UAE’s ADNOC sells first cargo of blue ammonia to Japan

Updated 04 August 2021

UAE’s ADNOC sells first cargo of blue ammonia to Japan

  • Shipments were sold at an attractive premium to grey ammonia
  • CO2 from the ammonia production process will be captured and transferred to Al Reyadah

ABU DHABI: Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) said it has partnered with Fertiglobe to sell its first cargo of blue ammonia to Itochu in Japan, for use in fertilizer production.

The shipments represent the first production milestone of a planned scale-up of blue ammonia production capabilities in Abu Dhabi, which is expected to include a low-cost debottlenecking program at Fertiglobe’s Fertil site, UAE state news service WAM reported, citing a statement from ADNOC.

They were sold at an attractive premium to grey ammonia, underscoring the favorable economics for blue ammonia as an emerging source of low-carbon energy, it said.

Ammonia is a carrier fuel for hydrogen. A report earlier this year by Dii Desert Energy and Roland Berger said the Gulf region could create a $200 billion green hydrogen industry by 2050. The Gulf benefits from its strategic geographic location between European and Asian markets.

Green hydrogen is created with renewable energy and water, while blue hydrogen uses the traditional Haber-Bosch method but captures the carbon emissions.

CO2 from the ammonia production process will be captured and transferred to Al Reyadah, the first commercial-scale carbon capture plant in the Middle East and the world’s first commercial facility to capture CO2 from the iron and steel industry. The CO2 is subsequently used in ADNOC Onshore’s Rumaitha and Bab fields where it is stored underground. Each year, Al Reyadah captures up to 800,000 tons of CO2 from local UAE steel production.

Fertiglobe, the world’s largest seaborne exporter of nitrogen fertilizers, is a 58:42 joint venture between Dutch-listed chemical producer OCI and ADNOC. In June, Fertiglobe, ADNOC and ADQ said they would partner in a one million metric ton per annum blue ammonia project at TA’ZIZ in Ruwais, subject to regulatory approvals.

In April, it was reported that ADNOC and OCI had hired banks, including Morgan Stanley and Citigroup, for a possible $7 billion IPO of Fertiglobe.

“Today’s announcement builds upon ADNOC’s commitment to expanding the UAE’s position as a regional leader in the production of hydrogen and its carrier fuels, meeting the needs of critical global export markets such as Japan,” said Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, minister of industry and advanced technology and ADNOC group CEO.

Ammonia can be used as a low-carbon fuel across a wide range of industrial applications, including transportation, power generation, refining and industries, including steel, wastewater treatment, cement and fertilizer production. For Japan, in particular, hydrogen and its carrier fuels, such as blue ammonia, are expected to play an important role in the country’s ongoing industrial decarbonization efforts.

UAE, China agree to cooperate on money laundering, terrorism financing

Updated 04 August 2021

UAE, China agree to cooperate on money laundering, terrorism financing

  • Countries will share financial transaction information

ABU DHABI: The Financial Information Unit of the UAE’s central bank has signed a memorandum of understanding with the China Anti-Money Laundering Monitoring and Analysis Center to share financial information to aid the combating of money laundering and terrorism financing.

The MOU will see the two authorities exchanging transaction information related to their respective investigations, in accordance with the local laws and regulations applicable in both countries, the UAE’s state news agency WAM reported.

The agreement was signed by Ali Faisal Baalawi, head of the Financial Information Unit in the UAE, and Zhou Yunjun, director general of the China Center for Anti-Money Laundering Monitoring and Analysis.

“We will continue our unremitting joint efforts to confront all suspicious activities at the regional and international levels, and we will endeavor to reduce the threats these activities pose to the stability and integrity of the global financial system,” said Baalwai.

The UAE has become the largest market for Chinese exports, and the second largest trading partner for China in the Arab world, said Zhou.

Riyadh-based Al startup Intelmatix completes first investment round

Updated 04 August 2021

Riyadh-based Al startup Intelmatix completes first investment round

  • Size of funding round not disclosed
  • Investors include STV, Sultan Holdings

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia-based AI startup Intelmatix has closed its first investment round led by STV, Mena’s largest venture capital fund, and Sultan Holdings, a leading strategic investor in some of Mena’s largest companies.

“Artificial Intelligence offers opportunities worth billions,” Intelmatix Co-Founder and CEO Anas Alfaris, Wamda reported, citing a statement. “In the Saudi Arabian market alone, Location Intelligence opportunities exceed SR2 billion annually, and globally, the value is more than SR100 billion each year.”

Intelmatix, headquartered in the Saudi capital Riyadh, said on its official Twitter account it is pleased to announce the closing and launch of its operations in Riyadh, London and Boston.

“We recognize the revolution occurring today in the business world due to artificial intelligence and advanced analytics,” said Sultan Holdings Chairman Naif Bin Sultan Bin Muhammad bin Saud Al Kabeer. “For us, Intelmatix is more than an investment, it is a key strategic step to advance the prospects of AI adoption and enablement in the business sector.”

Intelmatix, founded by MIT graduates, is a pioneer in accessible AI and advanced analytics that deliver technologies that improve operations, productivity, growth, and sustainability for governments and the private sector.

“The Intelmatix team is made of the brightest minds in the region, and they have the ability and vision to make the company a major global AI player,” STV’s founder and CEO, Abdulrahman Tarabzouni said.

Global technology foresight firms report that the revenues from artificial intelligence in the Middle East will exceed SR1 trillion during the next 10 years, half of which is expected to be in the Saudi market, where AI will contribute at least SR500 billion to the Saudi economy by 2030.