Environmental leaders often lead organizations with an added responsibility- of saving the environment one initiative at a time. Being an environmental leader is first an intrinsic process, concerned with a changing mindset of the self. This is then reflected extrinsically, with a hard focus on reality, and taking into account the wide range of holistic factors.
Leadership starts with a small step, and Ahmed Detta with his unwavering passion has proved how impactful even a small step can be.
Featuring for The Enterprise World’s this issue of Top Influential Business Leaders In 2023 is an exclusive conversation with Ahmed Detta, CEO of Enviroo.
Brief us about your journey at the company, what inspired you to start Enviroo?
I started my career in various IT infrastructure projects and other technology projects, as well as green data centers and sustainable technology. After that, I moved to the UAE which was the turning point in my life. I helped set up a mobile phone collections business called
The Green Foundation and I then left to do work with electronics recycling, looking at wider IT equipment for the region. Afterwards, I established the feasibility, design and commercial business case of a PET recycling facility in the Middle East, a project which was taken over by a global conglomerate.
During all this, I realized the world needed to move towards a circular economy and focused on trying to find a solution to old mobile phones. When I started recycling mobile phones, the profits were used for charity, specifically children who were needing cleft palate surgery, the campaign I started was called “Give a Child a Smile for Life ” which ended up being a turning point in my career. I finally felt that I could make a profit and feel good, knowing that I can also help others.
I then founded Enviroo. My mission from the beginning has been to make plastics recycling habitual in society’s everyday behaviour and instill the belief that profiteering from this is good for all in the process. This remains my mission and we are well on the way to making this a reality.
Enviroo’s visionary recycling business model is both a force for good and profitable. Over the last six years, I’ve spearheaded this model from concept to full equity investment funding for a facility in Abu Dhabi and will now be developing a bespoke recycling system for the UK.
What are the initial challenges you faced and what are the reasons behind company’s long-standing success?
As a business tackling the plastic problem we’ve had a lot of support, as plastic has long been demonized as a polluter – filling our oceans with microplastics, being found inside fish and marine life and ending up in the farthest corner of the earth such as the Antarctic.
Educating people that we simply can’t erase plastic from our modern lives, has been a problem. It’s highly efficient in terms of manufacturing, transportation and its use in medicine has been life-saving. Think about the millions of plastic medical instruments used every day in hospitals around the world.
Poly Ethylene Terephthalate, or PET, is one such form of plastic that is widely used, particularly in on-the-go food and drink packaging. From bottled water to ketchup, we can find PET in everyday household items that you can find on a supermarket shelf.
PET plastic is highly destructive to our planet. PET is a polymer and the major problem is the mechanical breakdown of the polymer. As a result, it frequently ends up in landfills where it could remain for hundreds of years. It is often shipped off to developing countries who dump it in rivers or incinerate it. The only way to deal with PET is to recycle it, safely and efficiently
So plastic isn’t the problem, it’s the fact that it is not being repurposed.
There’s an argument that we should embrace plastic and its ability to improve the way we live but if we do this it’s essential we take responsibility for the pollution it has caused and seek to halt plastic impacting our environment. We can continue to enjoy the benefits of plastic if we can learn to embrace a circular economy and habitually recycle. This is where Enviroo comes in. We are an organisation that is committed to responsibly taking care of plastics. It is a plastics recycling company.
What are the products or services Enviroo focuses on? How are your services different from those in the market?
We provide a solution to post-consumer plastic waste. We recycle 100% of PET plastic waste and create ‘food-grade’ polymers that are used to recreate food packaging and plastic bottles. We have created a closed-loop recycling method, with long-term viability as it ensures transparency, circularity, and sustainability.
Our executive team at Enviroo is adept at identifying opportunities where plastics recycling can be accelerated or improved from current processes and has developed local market insights to support the ever-growing plastic waste problem. We use innovative technology that segments PET plastic from other supporting components through a highly sophisticated synthesised washing process, coupled with a world-class extrusion process. The result is the creation of polymers that can be used in direct food contact packaging.
What’s unique is that our recycled polymer, blends perfectly with virgin PET polymers or can stand alone in the production process. Importantly, Enviroo is involved in every step of the circular economy; from the build of the PET recycling facility to the operations. This ensures transparency, which the recycling industry has most definitely lacked as of late.
How do you decide to take Enviroo a step further?
Once our first PET recycling is open, we’ll begin to develop our first Deposit Return Schemes (DRS) where we encourage consumers to embrace DRS to change behaviors around recycling, particularly around on-the-go recycling.
A successful DRS will enable consumers to deposit ideally all items they have purchased in so-called ‘meal deals’. This would include plastic bottles, crisp packets and sandwich packets. A DRS must be a ‘one-stop shop’ for consumers to get rid of their waste where they can not only benefit from a deposit return but also feel comfortable that their waste will be responsibly sorted, recycled and re-used. Enviroo will be helping to clean up plastic waste from our streets and give back to consumers who engage in DRS.
We’ll be working with homeless charities to encourage homeless people to earn money by returning waste plastic to DRS machines, so this project goes beyond its environmental impact, it’s also working to improve society at a local level across the UK and Scotland.
Can you please brief us about your professional experience?
Adding to the information detailed above, Ahmed Detta has over 15 year’s professional industry experience across the UK, Middle East & Singapore. Industry specialism span across the Sustainability and Technology arenas with a deep-rooted focus on plastics recycling. Ahmed Detta graduated from Cambridge University and Lancaster University Management School and holds an Executive MBA from Quantic School of Business and Technology. Supported international campaigns including; United Nations Clean Development Mechanism (UNCDP) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
Ahmed Detta is highly networked within the UK government entities and corporate sector and champions the development of recycling methodologies and best practice in the United Kingdom.
What are the key achievements of your business journey?
For Enviroo’s efforts and contributions to society, Enviroo has received a number of awards, some of which are listed below:
- Plastic Recycling Experts of the Year in England – 2022
- Best Consumer Plastic Waste Recycling Specialists – UK
- The 10 Most Innovative Business Leaders to follow in 2021
- Waste and recycling Leader of the Year, UK
- Ahmed Detta was appointed as a patron of the official History of Parliament Trust’s 300 years of Leadership and Innovation’
‘Innovation is the key to business growth’, Please share your views.
Working in the circular economy means that innovation is at the heart of everything we do. Innovation will be the reason why we can tackle waste plastic and ultimately climate change.
Through our innovation at Enviroo, we have been able to develop our business model to offer a unique service that tackles a global problem. Working in sustainability for nearly 20 years means that I’ve been very much a part of the innovation journey and I thrive on being at the very heart of it through Envrioo.