I am a youth environmental engineer, social entrepreneur and activist, as well as the co-founder and CEO of ReFuse, a Lebanese social enterprise offering community-centered solid waste management services. My passion and expertise lie in combining equitable access to resources with ecosystem justice and restoration. Founding ReFuse with my 3 fellow co-founders enabled me to transform my vision into a tangible mission, mixing engineering with urban sociology expertise. Today, our team of over 15 members is rapidly expanding on my mission, and we jointly challenge the status quo with creative and ethical irreverence.ReFuse, a 100% youth-led and owned social enterprise start-up, was born to tackle a socio-environmental problem, envisioning a zero-waste society that channels resources to empower communities. Registered in Lebanon since March 2022, ReFuse was created to fight waste and its harmful socioenvironmental impacts on vulnerable communities. Waste has overwhelmed local Lebanese governments and threatened communities’ health for decades. Setting up viable, accessible services continues to be challenging in dense, underserved communities. To date, around 20% of the waste is recovered, out of which 6% reaches recycling facilities, 36% is landfilled, and 44% is abandoned in 940+ uncontrolled scattered dumps, threatening the lives of the inhabitants.To address this problem, we run recyclables collection shops, sell recyclables to industries and reward those who contribute with their waste. Our Web2 operating software engages users and trades over 24 types of materials. In our first year, we grew a base of over 10,000 users and regularly served 50 local enterprises. We saw firsthand how people that knew nothing about waste learned to identify 24 types of materials, ultimately reducing their consumption and boosting their environmental integrity. This served as a proof point of our belief: any community can start recycling, and get rewarded for it. In the long run, we aim to make better use of public spaces and improve the quality of living conditions in dense, previously underserved neighbourhoods. Creating an accessible, user-friendly, and tech-based modelOur service model is designed to serve any dense setting with high volumes of waste generation. Small infrastructures are meant to ensure accessibility and user-friendliness: creating the missing link between people and industries. The model also relies on a web2-enabled digital solution we developed and tested, and is grounded on engineered logistics and centred on the diverse chemistry of secondary raw materials.ReFuse is tackling a total addressable market of 2,700,000 tons of municipal solid waste, valued at $101 Million/year - if limited to Lebanon. Our goal is to reach a penetration of 4% in 4 years. We collected expressions of interest from 25+ industries for 30 tons/day, meaning an opportunity of $2.1 Million/year. ReFuse invested $30K in CAPEX to kickstart our processing capacity. The team is now focusing on the market acquisition by targeting underserved communities, spreading our community engagement campaigns, and targeting industrial producers of recyclables.Traditional sorting schemes rely on trucks and bins to divert recyclables from dense neighbourhoods, incapable of recovering operational costs and generating awareness. Collecting loose recyclables, though, means facing huge operating expenditures for little volumes: transportation inefficiency easily reaches 90%. Loose recyclable transportation further adds to three key issues affecting Lebanon: traffic, lack of fuel, and air pollution.ReFuse incentivises our community to drop their waste at our collection points. By saving on transportation, we can share 50% of the market value of recyclables with our community. Learning to sort materials is a steep learning curve, and requires trust building in the Lebanese context to compensate for the perceived sectoral corruption. To address this, we ensure transparency and on-the-spot learning at our collection centres. Our service adopters witness the sorting and direct processing, enabling their perception of recyclables as resources to grow rapidly. The reward-based scheme also encourages higher commitment and quality sorting efforts from users.Our rewards-based scheme to incentivise recyclingEnabling holistic empowerment for underserved communitiesWe fight to eradicate poverty, providing contract-based jobs and training for people in underserved communities. Through our reward-based sorting, we further enable income generation for vulnerable communities. We further work to erase informal jobs and child labour in this sector, by combatting the exploitative practices of Lebanon’s waste mafia, and opening recyclables collection points to eliminate reliance on this modern slavery system.We reduce the release of waste into the air, water and soil by diverting 24 waste streams to the recycling industry, turning them into secondary raw materials. We tackle dense neighbourhoods lacking services to minimise adverse impacts on human health and the environment. We engage disadvantaged youth, continuously spread awareness, and provide technical consultancies to substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling, and reuse. Through clean-ups and integrated solid waste management solutions, we contribute daily to creating more sustainable cities and communities, reducing litter and promoting environmental actions.ReFuse’s service is designed and built to be scalable, to serve dense underserved communities, or to be placed in any setting with a high waste generation. We are prepared to scale our model to concentrated urban spaces, informal settlements, and refugee camps worldwide, innovating the space between people and industries in the most neglected settings.Bales of pressed cardboard ready to sell to various industriesLeading change amongst communities, corporations, and governmentsLooking ahead, we aim to reach new communities and expand our social and environmental impact. The team is perfectioning the system requirements and operating procedures for managing several collection points in the near future. We aim to expand the area coverage to 5 collection centres while finetuning both our soft and hard infrastructure. We also aim to pilot our first movable circular center in Lebanon’s refugee camps to target up to one million users in underserved scattered settlements.We are also looking towards our B2B strategy, to encourage huge corporations to transition to more sustainable practices through our advocacy efforts. We are further piloting initiatives based on our research on exploited informal waste collectors, and influencing the Lebanese government and UN agencies to update their policies on transparent recyclables trading.Through our efforts, I want to make everyone see what I can see: Never call it waste. Make it valuable.