One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure

EnEvo was founded by Syidah Kariya and Tan Thiam Kui, who have known each other since  2014, when they were both working in a consulting firm.  

Surrounded by papers and documents, founders Syidah and Tan were chatting when the conversation turned to trash—specifically, how they can turn paper waste into recycled products.

Image: Yusri Adanan

Syidah who graduated with a Biological Science degree and Master in Management from UBD has been passionate about recycling and preserving the environment, so much so, she would spend most of her free time looking for ways to transform waste into something useful.

With more than 10 years of working experience, Syidah is an expert in Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), Environmental Aspects and Impact Identification and Risk Assessment, Development of Environmental and Monitoring Plan (EMMP) and Environmental Auditing,

Worker showing the end product. Image: Yusri Adanan

“In 2012 I was managing a company’s environmental management system and one of the initiatives was to recycle. That’s when I began to explore ideas or ways to make use of papers,” she shared.

She started experimenting by blending papers while also profiling different types of pulps. She was enthusiastic about the idea of creating recycled products made wholly from recycled papers.

Image: Yusri Adanan

Tan on the other hand, who had a degree in Geoscience decided to follow the ‘green’ brick road with Syidah, after she convinced him with the idea that they can turn used paper into toilet tissue and a start-up company was quickly established. 

In 2015, Syidah and Tan registered EnEvo as a business.

“The name “EnEvo” is an acronym for Environmental Evolution. We do not just tackle paper, we plan to make Brunei a waste-free country by dealing with other non-hazardous waste. Hence why we chose a broader name for our company,” Tan explained.

Image: Yusri Adanan

For four years, the friends-turned-business-partners began collecting used paper from across the country which by 2020 amounted to 41 tonnes.

After years of researching ways to turn paper wastage into quality tissue, with an initial investment of $900,000, they concluded on bringing in a 21-tonne paper mill from China-based Wangda Industrial to their industrial unit at Serambangun, Tutong.

Toilet paper and other tissues are traditionally made from virgin pulp, a byproduct of timber. However, for EnEvo since they are strictly environmental, their toilet tissue relies 100% on recycled papers.

Image: Yusri Adanan

The recycled paper is collected, sorted and brought to the paper mill, where it is mixed with water then pulped, filtered, refined and turned into pulp.

Today, EnEvo is able to process two to three tonnes of waste paper in a day which, according to Tan, is equivalent to 300 packs of 10 toilet rolls.

Brunei’s first local tissue brand only hit local supermarket shelves in November 2020.

Priced at $4.50 for 10-packs, it took EnEvo five years to get to where they are now. Now you can spot the tissue brand in almost every major supermarket such as Hua Ho Department Store, Supa Save and Soon Lee. The company currently distributes to more than 20 supermarkets.

Image: Yusri Adanan
Image: Yusri Adanan

Sustaining a circular economy by closing the loop

EnEvo’s fundamental values from day one have been to concentrate on providing solutions to the global and local environmental sustainability challenges with a strong view on serving the local economy, by providing access to its manufactured products and supporting local employment.

In line with Brunei Vision 2035, in which part of the blueprint aims to ensure that the country’s natural environment is protected, EnEvo is on a mission to provide a sustainable solution to the growing environmental concern by taking paper waste and transforming it into recycled products, and they are looking to do it one roll at a time.

An average person in the Sultanate generates 1.14 kg of solid waste per day, making Brunei among the highest waste generators in the ASEAN region according to the Department of Environment, Park and Recreation (JASTRe) in 2019.

Image: Yusri Adanan

In 2019, approximately 297,218 metric tonnes (MT) of waste were generated in Brunei and 672 MT of waste were delivered to the landfill in Sungai Paku, Tutong every day, 10% of which is paper waste.

Reducing waste is reducing the amount of trash that goes to the landfill. Last year alone, EnEvo managed to convert 45,000. metric tonnes (MT) of waste paper into 30,000 tissue rolls, saving landfill space.

Recognising the gaps in recycling and waste management, founders Syidah Kariya and Tan Thiam Ku wanted to do more than just recycling, they wanted to become the forefront of the movement to tackle the waste issues in the country by closing the loop.

Image: Yusri Adanan

Syidah shared that to be a sustainable society, we need a closed-loop recycling system, which is the process by which waste is collected and then used to make something new then consumers buy these new items.

EnEvo offers the whole package from the waste paper collection, paper recycling to tissue supplies.

“We cannot provide this platform for recycling if we cannot find a way to generate income from the product as well,” she shared adding that EnEvo is setting a target of selling 10,000 packs of toilet tissue per month.

“We are having quite a struggle in terms of demand because we are also competing with other imported brands. If you go to a supermarket you can see 20 different brands but what makes us different is that we are 100% Bruneian-made and affordable,” Tan shared on his part.

Image: Yusri Adanan

“We need to stand out more. We realised that our packaging is designed on the same level as other brands that we ended up blending in with them,” he added.

Although new to the recycling business, the two wastepreneurs have grown with the business, learning and trying out new things along the way.

As for future plans, diversification is on the cards, as the company is looking to recycle different types of paper products. 

EnEvo also hopes to expand its production facility in the future and is expected to increase its production capacity providing greater ability to meet future growth opportunities.

Image: Yusri Adanan

The wastepreneurs added that the company’s ultimate goal is to become Brunei’s pioneer resource centre in Brunei and also to contribute to increasing the country’s recycling rate of up to 30% by the year 2035 through minimisation of recyclables going to landfills.

This article was first published on 15 July 2021 in our HM 75th Birthday Edition

THE BRUNEIAN | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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