When John van Zuylen moved to Dubai from Belgium in 2009, he noticed an issue. In Belgium, recycling is mandatory and widely practised. In Dubai, he discovered that many people didn’t follow the same environmentally friendly habits.
From this, the concept of HomeCycle was born. Simply download the mobile app or visit the website, register and your recycling will be collected from your home the following day. You are incentivised to recycle more through a points system, which offers rewards ranging from cashback and discount vouchers to opportunities to redeem the points as charitable donations.
Perhaps, most compelling is the fact that the service is free of charge for residents. Essentially, it’s like Uber without the financial sting of a credit-card payment after you use the service. “HomeCycle is the Uber for recycling,” says van Zuylen.
“HomeCycle is meant to be as convenient and simple as possible for residents. First you learn about your recycling mission. We then assign very small quantities for you to collect and once you reach these small quantities of, say, plastic bottles, paper and glass bottles – many different things – you simply click on the button and request a pick-up. The next morning you can leave your bags in front of the door and somebody from our team will drive by during the day to collect and later on the points are awarded. People don’t even need to be home for us to collect their recycling, which makes it extra convenient.”
HomeCycle is the Uber for recycling. It is meant to be as convenient and simple as possible for residents.
This understanding of the level of service expected by Dubai residents has been key to HomeCycle’s success. Without any significant marketing push, more than 3,500 households have signed up to the scheme, mainly through word of mouth. In a city where we routinely have everything from our dinner and groceries to dry cleaning and the latest fashion delivered directly to our door, van Zuylen’s awareness of the market has been vital.
In van Zuylen’s native Belgium, recycling schemes are subsidised through taxation but here in Dubai a different financial model is required to make HomeCycle a success. “We haven’t been able to grow that fast as this service has costs and we need to find partners to make it possible,” he says. He refers to organisations such as the water company MonViso that has supported the business since the beginning by contributing financially to the HomeCycle’s service as part of its corporate social responsibility strategy. Van Zuylen hopes to add more such partners, which will allow him to grow the free residential service.
Currently, HomeCycle only operates in Dubai but van Zuylen has ambitious plans to launch the service to other emirates and beyond. “Dubai was the place where we wanted to test the concept and to see if people wanted were receptive to it. In 2019, we are looking to start expanding to other cities and other countries. We are currently in talks with municipal authorities that would like to use HomeCycle as their main tool to bring recycling to their residents.”
One of the key themes of Dubai Expo 2020 is sustainability and van Zuylen encourages developments that improve the environmental credentials of the city. “There are many initiatives and not all of them have been successful but what matters most is creating more awareness, with people really caring about the environment,” he says.
“I’ve noticed a drastic change over the past few years and definitely over the past few months. Any contribution to environmental protection and recycling in particular is welcomed. There is no one single solution and anybody who participates in this industry contributes in the end to a better environment.”
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