Dubai-based ‘Waste Lab’ founders to turn desert sand into farmable soil

The female-led start-up has developed equipment to back their nature-based eco solutions

by Dhanusha Gokulan

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Top Stories

Published: Wed 10 Aug 2022, 9:06 AM

Last updated: Wed 10 Aug 2022, 5:09 PM

For Lara Hussein and Ceylan Üren, founders of the Waste Lab company, the goal is to provide every food scrap to become part of a solution rather than a burden on society and the environment.

The Waste Lab focuses on tackling the issue of food waste across households and businesses in the country by ‘rescuing food scraps’ and transforming the country’s desert sand into farmable soil.

A Dubai-based female-led start-up, The Waste Lab has developed low-tech equipment to back their nature-based solutions in restoring ecological balance. “Every papaya seed can be rescued; every dragon fruit peel can be rescued,” said the company’s founders.

What is the Waste Lab?

Funded by Incubayt, an early-stage investment company, the company offers off-site and on-site composting.

“It targets both B2C and B2B clients, with the scope to customise subscriptions to suit individual needs and also provide consultancy services and contracts to restaurants, hotels, schools, and other establishments,” explained Hussein.

“The latest offering involves conducting on-site household composting as well as disseminating a part of the mature compost back to them,” she added. “These efforts are directed towards addressing the issue at the grassroots level, right in the backyards of UAE residents,” said Üren.

The company said it has already onboarded over 120 households in Dubai in addition to several pilot projects which are already live. “We are working towards accommodating the wait list as soon as we can scales up resources,” she added.

Moreover, ongoing pilot projects with The Hilton Group and Pullman Dubai Creek City Center are marking the start-up's initial steps into the domain of business-to-business offerings.

Hussein said “While we offer an interactive digital platform, we continue to stay close to nature which is our best teacher in degrading organic matter. Allowing nature to play its course, at The Waste Lab our technology is nature and tools microorganisms and macroorganisms in an aerobic environment.”

She said the vision of the company is in line with the UAE’s National Food Loss and Waste Initiative, Ne'ma, to cut down food waste by 50 per cent by 2030 and achieve a Net Zero on carbon emissions by 2050.

The company also hosts workshops imparting key guidelines on effective composting and its role in improving soil health and fighting climate change. “We are trying to build an environmentally conscious community that targets the growing issue of landfills and scraps right at the source,” added Üren. Projects with hotels mark the start-up’s entry into waste management and scrap rescue in partnership with bigger establishments.

Meanwhile, Üren, said, “At The Waste Lab, we do not see organic leftovers as waste for every food scrap that we rescue is used to benefit local soil, local farms, local food and local jobs.”

Sami Khoreibi, the CEO of Incubayt Investments, said, “Incubayt Investments has always believed in the power of founders supporting other founders and with The Waste Lab, we will continue to support sustainability-led start-ups.”

Who is responsible for most scrap in landfills?

While households collectively have a significant bearing on the total collection of scraps, at 61 per cent as per the UNEP Food Waste Index Report 2021, corporations and business organisations also make a sizeable contribution.

“As we test its customisable model against larger quantities of data, the partnership is allowing us to extract key learnings and find a simple solution for complex processes,” said Hussein.

The pilot runs are in phases. In phase one, the focus is on orientation, data collection and training, giving the start-up a platform for further tests. For example, for The Hilton Group, this comes as a part of its self-committed mandate to reduce its global food waste by half by the year 2030.

“We are aiming for full-scale operations by 2023 across Dubai by administering the principle of Reduce, Repurpose, Re-soil, in every B2B and B2C offering,” she added.

Customers and households can begin their composting journey with The Waste Lab by submitting an online form on their website:

What are the key components of Waste Lab?

> Collection bins along with guidelines to segregate the food scraps and leftovers at source to ensure effectual composting and repurposing

> Transportation to a control station for further segregation before transferring to the in-house composting station and/or to different partners who will process them into valuable by-products such as animal protein, essential oils, food dyes, and a medium to grow mushrooms, to mention a few

> Data-tracking, wherein relevant metrics with analytical reports on the quantity of food waste, its composition, treatment and composting output are saved on a cloud system.

> Impact reports which are shared periodically with the client, allowing them full transparency on their contribution to reducing food waste, diverting from landfills and eliminating the associated methane and carbon emissions


Dhanusha Gokulan
Dhanusha Gokulan

More news from