CIRCL: turning waste into opportunities in Akkar

September 27, 2023

In the heart of Akkar, in Lebanon, a region known for its resilience and beauty but often overlooked and underserved, two determined women, Hiba Mikhael and Elya Rizk, returned to Lebanon from Europe with a fervent desire to ignite change in their marginalized community. The stage was set for a remarkable journey, and they named their venture "CIRCL" – a waste management facility with a twist. Their ingenious approach encouraged people to recycle their garbage in exchange for money, not only incentivizing recycling but also turning waste into a valuable resource.

The essence of CIRCL's work lay in its creative recycling efforts. They collected and repurposed waste materials, selling them to companies and upcycling them into innovative products. It was an endeavor that transcended mere waste management; it was a solution that breathed new life into Akkar.

One of the most significant accomplishments of CIRCL was its impact on the community. It was not just about managing waste; it was about creating opportunities. The startup succeeded in creating six new jobs in Akkar, empowering local individuals with employment and a sense of purpose. It was a testament to the transformative power of entrepreneurship in a region where job opportunities were scarce.

CIRCL's impact extended beyond economic empowerment. They were champions in breaking gender stereotypes in Akkar. Hiba and Elya shattered the notion that waste management was a man's job. They showed the community, especially young girls, that women could lead, innovate, and succeed in any field they chose. Their success story became a beacon of hope and an inspiration to women across Akkar, encouraging them to pursue their dreams and challenge traditional roles such as caregiving and domestic roles.

The environment, too, benefited from CIRCL's work, as discarded materials found new purpose instead of ending up in landfills. This eco-conscious approach not only preserved the natural beauty of Akkar but also contributed to a cleaner, healthier environment for all its residents.

Before receiving support from the Youth Leadership Program (YLP), Hiba and Elya acknowledged that they lacked many of the essential business skills that the program provided. Moreover, the procurement support they received enabled them to install solar energy systems at their facility in Akkar. This transformation allowed them to extend their working hours from a mere 1-2 hours, depending on the unreliable electricity supply, to a sustainable 8 hours powered by clean energy. This not only increased their productivity but also showcased their commitment to sustainability.

Hiba and Elya were not content with local success alone. Winning the final pitching competition was a turning point, granting them the incredible opportunity to attend COP28 in December. This international exposure promises to be life-changing, offering them a platform to showcase their innovative projects and to build partnerships that could further amplify their impact. They have become ambassadors of positive change, representing not just Akkar but also the potential of startups to drive sustainable development and gender equality on a global scale.

CIRCL's story is a testament to the power of innovation, entrepreneurship, and the indomitable spirit of determined individuals. Hiba and Elya have not only transformed waste into wealth but also created a brighter future for Akkar, its people, and women everywhere who dare to dream beyond traditional boundaries. Their journey inspires us all to think outside the box, embrace sustainability, and work towards a more inclusive and equitable world.