From Donuts to Notebooks

August 28, 2011 By Sally El-Sabbahy
Outreach Egypt and The Bakery Shop (TBS) have partnered to launch an innovative project aimed at encouraging TBS customers to return their empty doughnut boxes and paper bags to be recycled into eco-friendly stationary. Going green has never tasted so good

Entering a TBS outlet on an empty stomach is a surefire guarantee that you won’t be leaving short of a box of doughnuts, a bag containing a ciabatta sandwich and a blueberry muffin. After ravenously consuming the aforementioned baked goods, you’ll inevitably be left with a pile of paper and cardboard packaging that previously would have simply been disposed of in the trash bin. However, thanks to a unique recycling project that TBS is now in with an organization called Outreach Egypt, that won’t be the case anymore.

Outreach Egypt is a sustainable development organization that was founded and presently managed by three partners: Heba El Rifai, the Managing Director, Safaa El Shafei, the Executive Director and Dalia El Nazer, the Business Development and Operations Manager. These ‘social entrepreneurs,’ as they like to be referred to, are the brains behind the conception of every Outreach Egypt initiative and project, including the current recycling initiative with TBS. Falling under the umbrella of their Eco Friendly Program, which is one of the four different social development programs that they operate, the TBS recycling project represents the successful real-world application of the program’s mandate, which is “to encourage the private sector and the community to be actively engaged in environmentally friendly projects, while providing job opportunities for the unemployed youth.”

Accordingly, the recycling campaign, which officially kicked off at the TBS branch in the North Coast in July, utilizes Outreach Egypt’s Youth Vocational Program, which provides job and work experiences for teenagers and young adults. Manned by the young employees that are a part of this vocational program, a sorting and collection station was set up outside TBS’s Diplomatic Village location for customers to return their used boxes and bags.

Elaborating as to why it was important to encourage customers to return the waste themselves, El Nazer explains, “Our idea was to make sure that the TBS clients would bring back the cardboard boxes and packaging, because we wanted them to know that separation [of waste] is very important.” With three large collection bins marked specifically for cardboard, paper, bottles and cans, the first week of the initiative was dedicated to raising awareness of the new project, as well as collecting enough recyclable waste to produce the line of stationary.

Displaying the stationary was a key aspect of the second week of the project, because as El Nazer points out, some customers had expressed concern and confusion towards the initiative, at first believing that the returned waste would be used to package food again. Hence, she continues, “We came back with the products made from what we had collected, so that the operation was visible to people and so we could build trust and loyalty with TBS clients.” Displaying the TBS branded notebooks, bookmarks, sketch pads and other stationary items alongside the collecting and sorting station, proved to be a hit among TBS customers, who El Nazer recalls, were eager to buy the displayed products. Although they had initially planned to make the stationary line available for sale, she says it was instead decided that the month of July would be used as a set period to showcase the recycled products. In spite of not being able to buy the stationary, TBS customers still flocked back to the bakery in order to return their leftover waste.

Basel Mashhour, speaking on behalf of TBS’s founders – which includes himself, Tarek El Nazer and Sameh El-Sadat – describes what he says was a “great customer appreciation” of the initiative, as evidenced by the amount of waste that was returned. “The Outreach Egypt field staff were in constant contact with TBS clients; giving them the campaign flyer, which is in the form of a bookmark that tells the story of the initiative, talking about the importance of returning the waste and showing samples of produced items from former TBS packages,” he adds. “The clients showed positive feedback [and an] interest in being part of an innovative and environmentally friendly activity.”

As a result of the overwhelmingly positive response, Outreach Egypt and TBS are planning to expand the project to all TBS locations in Cairo. “We’re still going to plan how to handle the operation in the Cairo branches,” El Nazer explains, but affirmed that the recycling project would indeed be present in all TBS outlets. Mashhour also noted that the TBS stationary would be available for purchase in the upcoming phase of the initiative’s extension into Cairo.

Although the first and most obvious benefit of this initiative is in its ability to reduce waste and increase public awareness about recycling, there are two other notable effects: the creation of jobs for unemployed youth, and the sustainable income generated for the print shop that produces the recycled stationary.

A major component of Outreach Egypt’s programs are based on the organization setting up partnerships with local craftsmen. Outreach Egypt approaches craftsmen, and after a thorough evaluation period, partners with them in a small specially produced line of goods. This ensures that the craftsmen will have a consistent income from producing the line that Outreach Egypt invests in. Conversely, Outreach Egypt is able to make returns on their investment by providing the line on a larger scale to corporate buyers.

This unique process of Outreach Egypt actively partnering with craftsmen to produce a line of products is what has made the TBS recycled stationary line a reality. “We [had] partnered with a small print shop downtown, and they do their own production, but we have an investment just in the production of a reused and recycled stationery line,” El Nazer reveals. That same print shop is the one that is now printing and creating the TBS recycled stationary line. Mashhour further elaborates on how this developmental aspect of the initiative is in line with TBS’s overall vision, “TBS firmly believes that even small or entrepreneurial businesses must engage in the delivery of tangible initiatives that contribute to sustainable growth and development. Put simply, TBS’s vision is one where value is not just driven from the bottom line and positive growth, but through sustainable, partnership-driven philanthropic endeavors that support sustainable human development in an ethical and responsible manner.”

In partnering with Outreach Egypt on this initiative, Mashhour hopes that “hundreds of [other] companies will redefine their business models and refocus their strategies towards a longer, more sustainable goal,” that will include the fostering of a more ethical social environment that emphasizes a culture of engagement and ‘giving back,’ as well as raise the overall “standards of accountability in the Egyptian market.”

The members of Outreach Egypt’s Youth Vocational Program have not only garnered vital first-hand work experience that will aid them in their future career endeavors, but they have single-handedly set a constructive example for others in their community for choosing to be involved in such a needed cause. They organized the collecting and sorting station at the North Coast TBS branch, spoke with customers about the initiative, and also played a major role in processing the collected waste before it was sent off to be recycled.

After collecting and sorting the TBS waste, Outreach Egypt’s young employees carefully clean and prepare it to further aid in the recycling process. “We have a workshop area where we show them how to unscrew the caps on bottles, how to remove the plastic rings, to arrange the paper and slice it, and pack it together,” explains El Nazer.
She also recalls that because of the nature of the work, the Youth Vocational members were initially concerned about how others would perceive them. “Before they started, they were really worried about what people were going to think...they were saying ‘People are going to say we’re garbage collectors.’ But after the first weekend, they were very enthusiastic about carrying on and enjoyed the awareness aspect of what they were doing. They saw that people were interested in the activity and showed appreciation in it.”

Nour Hassib, a 22 year-old intern at Outreach Egypt, echoes this positive sentiment, “It was a great experience. I was part of a team implementing a creative initiative to engage TBS clients in a recycling campaign. Being in the field made me learn a lot, especially because I had to interact with so many people.”

If you’re a TBS customer in the Cairo area, be sure to look out for the collecting and sorting stations that will soon be popping up at your local TBS. Support this great initiative and get involved!