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“We're throwing away a thousand Boeing 747s every day” – May Al-Karooni

May Al-Karooni, the inspirational founder and CEO of Globechain, on how she spotted the need for a reuse marketplace and sold the idea of circularity to the construction and retail industry

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Construction waste makes up 61% of all waste incinerated or sent to landfill. Lubo Ivanko
Construction waste makes up 61% of all waste incinerated or sent to landfill. Lubo Ivanko

T he quantity of construction waste – 3.3 billion tonnes – that will be incinerated or thrown into landfill over the next 30 years is so big, it’s impossible to imagine, explains May Al-Karooni, founder and CEO of the reuse marketplace Globechain, in her talk, now available on The Developer Podcast.


“We’re throwing away 1,000 Boeing 747s every day in weight,” Al-Karooni says. With construction waste making up 61% of all UK rubbish, it’s clear housebuilders and developers need to embrace a more circular economy.


Waste is not just bad for the planet, however, it also hits the bottom line. “The average retailer spends £3m per year on waste disposal” with the cost of disposal often accounting for 2 to 3% of the project’s total budget. That’s equivalent to some consultants’ fee spent on rubbish.


Listen to the interview



Al-Karooni was working in the investment-banking and asset management industry when she identified the need for a circular economy approach with the waste generated from retail and office refits. The lightbulb moment was during an office move when she realised desks and chairs would be thrown out. Couldn’t charities use this stuff?


Her idea was to create a free Ebay for charities to get second-hand materials and goods. But savings on waste disposal didn’t prove to be enough of an incentive for retailers because it was rarely accounted for as a distinct project cost, so Globechain evolved to provide detailed ESG data (environmental, social and governance).


“This ESG data is used on a quite a high level, not just for sustainability reports, but for tax offsetting, credit financing, bond risk, share pricing, and potential IPO," Al-Karooni explains. “ESG is becoming more and more valuable to companies.”


Al-Karooni says Globechain also aligns with processes and key performance indicators across the built environment – from BREEAM points to the RIBA plan of work, from corporation tax to ESG investment, to ensure companies to make the most out of going circular, from offsetting the cost-of-sale on a reused item, to claiming a depreciation of assets under Corporation Tax, to providing the data needed towards net zero waste targets and carbon emissions.


Globechain’s clients include those working in retail and hospitality, such as Nandos and RadissonBlu. For the conversion of The Conduit from a hotel into a membership club, 3,058 items were listed including carpet, ceiling tiles, fire doors, pedestals, wood floors, pillars and marble, with 34,000kg of materials going to charities and trade schools, representing a saving of £15,075 for the charities that collected the goods.


Listen to Al-Karooni’s full talk by clicking on the link below. Register to our weekly newsletter to find out when new podcasts go live.


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