Start-up Watch: EcoStar
Founded by Hanan Al Taweel, EcoStar is a privately held and 100 percent Qatari owned company, which was started to look into the possibility of starting Qatari environmental, and ecological, business in 2012. Now it is readying to produce Qatar’s first locally developed biodiesel, by recycling used cooking oil, later this year.
How did this idea of setting up Qatar’s first biodiesel production company come up?
We first looked into the possibility of making biodiesel when we found out about the health implications and environmental impact that used cooking oil (UCO) has on society. In a region where water is so difficult to find and knowing that just one litre of oil can contaminate one million litres of water, we instantly took on the responsibility of making UCO our first challenge.
In partnership with Ashghal, we are formulating a strategy to implement a recycling plant for UCO in Qatar and cooperate with other waste management companies to collect UCO from Qatar, and turn it into a clean and renewable fuel. We are also working with Qatar Development Bank to finance the project and support it as we develop other collection models to enable members of the public to support our plant and recycle their UCO into biodiesel.
We have sourced a reverse vending machine from a Turkish company that will reward customers with coins, vouchers or credits in return for them depositing their UCO in our machines, rather than pouring it down the drains and causing a social, ecological, environmental and economic problem.
We have secured everything we need to complete the project and hope to start producing biodiesel in Qatar before the middle of 2016.
What have been the main challenges in setting up this company?
To be honest, the first two years of challenging Qatar’s business, industrial and ministerial bodies were a very difficult phase. Many people did not know about biodiesel and even more people did not believe that it was possible to create a business by collecting waste.
When you chose to do something new and unique in a country that has not even considered this type of enterprise then you are setting yourself up for problems. There were no classifications for the Commercial Registration (CR), no guidance for the health and safety, no knowledge regarding the implications or use or export of finished product, no definitions for licensing, no system of collection or transportation of UCO. Everything has taken 10 times longer to develop because we are blazing a new trail for others to capitalise on.
What has the response been like so far from the market?
Developing the strategy for the company also requires the help and support of your clients and suppliers. We would really want companies such as Karwa to come on board so we could say that Qatar’s public transport runs on biodiesel, or companies like Qatar Airways to help us develop greener fuels for the future. First, we have to battle the final hurdles of getting everything signed and sealed with the ministries, and then we can get the right stakeholders involved for the correct usages of this truly Qatari product.