Dekenet El Nes: Unwrapping the Challenge of Packaging Waste

In a country that is struggling with economic and environmental challenges, a forward-thinking startup recognized the opportunity to address both the social aspect of rising prices and the environmental concern of packaging waste by venturing into innovative solutions.  

Founded by a group of social & environmental activists, Dekent El Nes presents itself as a social enterprise that is introducing a new consumption pattern that guarantees social profitability and environmental responsibility. 

Dekent El Nes is one of the three winning startups that is currently part of the second incubation phase of the DAWERR Innovation Challenge 2023, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in partnership with Berytech.  

Dekenet Al Nes’s innovative approach to developing a cost-effective alternative to conventional supermarkets earned them fourth place and the esteemed People’s Choice Award at the AUB President’s Innovation Challenge 2023. This accomplishment underscores the diversity of solutions emerging from the 2023 President’s challenge, showcasing the potential for impactful change. 

In an interview with Anwar Zeineddine, CEO, and Layal Mostafa, Deputy CEO, we delved into this new initiative that is shaping the way people are shopping.  

Q: What is Dekenet Al Nes, and how does it contribute to addressing packaging waste in Lebanon?

A: Dekenet Al Nes is advancing awareness of sorting at source through its advocacy of package-free grocery shopping and the organized collection of sorted recyclables. Customers are encouraged to provide their containers, and Dekenet Al Nes facilitates the sorting and disposal of recyclable materials. This concerted effort promotes sustainable consumption practices and minimizes waste generation directly at the source. 

Dekenet Al Nes is a package-free grocery shop that provides high-quality locally sourced food and household products, offered in bulk quantities without any packaging and sold in an affordable & sustainable way. Customers bring their empty containers, refill them with their preferred quantities of the products, and then weigh and pay. Our slogan is to ensure that customers make responsible choices. By choosing to purchase their food and household products package-free, they contribute to significantly reducing the packaging waste that usually ends up in landfills.  

In the broader context, packaging is mainly any material that is used to enclose and protect products. These materials could be made of cardboard, glass, steel, and plastic, to name a few. Once these materials fulfill their purpose and the products are consumed, the packaging in itself is turned into waste.  

Dekenet Al Nes provides a unique solution by eliminating traditional packaging, offering an alternative approach to consumption that actively reduces the environmental impact associated with packaging waste. 

Q: What makes Dekenet Al Nes unique in comparison to traditional grocery stores? 

A: Dekenet Al Nes sets itself apart from traditional grocery stores by pioneering a consumption model that prioritizes social profitability and environmental responsibility. Customers not only enjoy fair and affordable shopping experiences, saving up to 40% on their purchases with package-free options but also directly support local businesses and farmers, thus fostering economic growth and job creation in Lebanon. 

In addition to promoting responsible consumption habits, Dekenet Al Nes is expanding its business model to include options for customers to drop off their recyclables. By encouraging customers to customize quantities, reuse containers, and reduce waste, Dekenet Al Nes aims to create a community of socially and environmentally aware individuals. Through these efforts, Dekenet Al Nes endeavors to promote social justice, reduce landfill waste, and empower consumers to make a positive impact on the world. 

Q: What made you want to start this initiative? 

A: There is a lack of governmental strategy for waste management in Lebanon. This is why it is our duty as citizens to initiate and take ownership in addressing this issue before the whole country is impacted. While various initiatives focus on sorting and recycling, Dekenet Al Nes actively contributes to optimizing the value chain by emphasizing reduction and reuse.  

Q: What are some of the challenges that you have faced and how did you overcome them? 

A: Before launching Dekent El Nes and opening our first branch in 2022, we brainstormed, planned, and tested the viability of our idea for over 6 months. There were many challenges that we had to face, especially in our operations.  The first main challenge was to secure suppliers who would agree to provide us with unpackaged products. The second challenge was to convince the customers to adopt this new consumption pattern and change their purchasing habits. We overcame these challenges by working together with our suppliers and customers. As they gained deeper insights into our mission and recognized their integral role in advancing social, economic, and environmental impact, the path forward became considerably smoother. Once they understood our mission better and saw how important they were in making a positive difference socially, economically, and environmentally, things got much easier. 

We can now proudly claim that Dekent El Nes serves more than 1,050 loyal customers and due to only word of mouth, this number is on the rise.  

Q: What keeps you motivated? 

A: Sometimes it does feel like the struggle is never-ending; however, our growing community of people and supporters, their words of encouragement, and the impact that we are creating on the environment keep us moving forward.  

Q: As one of the three winning startups in the USAID DAWERR Innovation Challenge 2023, how did you benefit from the program? 

A: Joining this program was a tremendous opportunity for us to further develop and scale our venture. We benefited the most from the technical, financial, and mentorship support provided by USAID in realizing our goals of expanding our customer base, strengthening our skills, and optimizing our operational and financial efficiency. We have witnessed firsthand the positive outcomes of the training and mentorship that was offered by the Berytech team and the transformative impact they had on early-stage startups. We learned how to improve our customer experience and how to identify our positioning and marketing strategy to highlight our mission from the experts. But most importantly, we developed a solid action plan that would help us get ready to replicate the concept of Dekenet Al Nes in different regions across Lebanon and we already started implementing the plan a month ago.  

There were so many valuable lessons learned from this experience but what stood out the most for us was that no matter how overwhelming the future goals may be, by listening to advice, setting a concrete plan, and being consistent and committed, one step at a time, you can reach the goal. 

Q: What do you think is the importance of such programs for Lebanese startups? 

A: Such programs, in such a severe economic crisis, are supporting certain startups by helping them grow much faster than they would on their own. After participating in such programs, those startups become stronger on their own, the gaps are filled, the risks are contained and the possibility of dreaming bigger and planning forward is more certain and possible.  

Q: What advice would you give to future startups? 

A: It is important to adopt a people-centric approach; it is crucial to consider the main goal in every decision made and, in every step, taken. Never forget the reason why you started this venture in the first place.  

Picture of Raghid Jarrah

Raghid Jarrah

Raghid Jarrah joined Berytech in July 2021 and is currently a Communication and Outreach Coordinator. He supports the team on various ongoing projects such as ARYAF, DAWERR, REAF, SAFI, WE4F, and others.

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