US penalizes Chinese firm

About one-fifth of the world’s oil supplies pass through the Strait of Hormuz. Iran’s actions in the Gulf took the market into more bullish territory on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 23 July 2019

US penalizes Chinese firm

  • Sanctions are part of Trump’s effort to increase pressure on Tehran

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration is penalizing a Chinese company and its top executive for violating US restrictions on dealing with Iran.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday the US is imposing sanctions on Zhuhai Zhenrong Limited and its CEO for violating restrictions on Iran’s oil industry.
Pompeo announced the measures in a speech in Orlando to the VFW.
The US sanctions are part of the Trump administration’s effort to increase pressure on Iran by starving its economy.
Oil exports are Iran’s largest source of foreign income and the US campaign has raised tensions between the two countries.
China has continued to import Iranian oil as other countries have stopped out of fear of US penalties.
Meanwhile, oil prices rose on Monday on concerns that Iran’s seizure of a British tanker last week may lead to supply disruptions in the energy-rich Gulf.  Brent crude futures climbed 79 cents, or 1.26 percent, to $63.26 a barrel.
West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 74 cents, or 1.33 percent, at $56.37 a barrel.
Last week, WTI fell over 7 percent and Brent lost more than 6 percent.
“The events in the Gulf have definitely taken the market into more bullish territory in today’s trading,” said Erik Norland, senior economist at CME Group.
“But that doesn’t mean markets will continue to go higher, and previous incidents in the Gulf haven’t driven up prices much — suggesting that investors’ calculus, rightly or wrongly, is that a war is not very likely.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• China has continued to import Iranian oil as other countries have stopped out of fear of US penalties.

• Capping gains, force majeure was lifted on loadings of crude on Monday at Libya’s Sharara oilfield, the country’s largest, whose closure since Friday had caused an output loss of about 290,000 bpd.

• Goldman Sachs on Sunday lowered its forecast of growth in oil demand for 2019 to 1.275 million bpd.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Friday they had captured a British-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf in response to Britain’s seizure of an Iranian tanker earlier this month.
The move has increased the fear of potential supply disruptions in the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf, through which flows about one-fifth of the world’s oil supplies, but no major escalation with Britain or the US appears imminent.
“In the cat and mouse game that Iran is playing with the US, it is taking calculated risks,” Harry Tchilinguirian, global oil strategist at BNP Paribas in London, told the Reuters Global Oil Forum.

“So far the US is not taking the bait.”
Capping gains, force majeure was lifted on loadings of crude on Monday at Libya’s Sharara oilfield, the country’s largest, whose closure since Friday had caused an output loss of about 290,000 barrels per day (bpd).
Hedge funds and other money managers raised their combined futures and options positions on US crude for a second week and increased their positions in Brent crude as well, according to data from the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Intercontinental Exchange.
Goldman Sachs on Sunday lowered its forecast of growth in oil demand for 2019 to 1.275 million bpd, citing disappointing global economic activity.


Egypt’s creative solutions to the plastic menace

Updated 24 August 2019

Egypt’s creative solutions to the plastic menace

  • Egyptian social startups are taking alternative approaches to fostering awareness and reducing waste
  • While initiatives around the world are taking action to combat this problem, some Egyptian projects are doing it more creatively

CAIRO: Global plastics production reached 348 million tons in 2017, rising from 335 million tons in 2016, according to Plastics Europe. 

Critically, most plastic waste is not properly managed: Around 55 percent of it was landfilled or discarded in 2015. These numbers are extremely concerning because plastic products take anything from 450 to 1,000 years to decompose, and the effects on the environment, especially on marine and human life, are catastrophic.

While initiatives around the world are taking action to combat this problem, some Egyptian projects are doing it more creatively.

“We’re the first website in the Middle East and North Africa that trades waste,” said Alaa Afifi, founder and CEO of Bekia. “People can get rid of any waste at their disposal — plastic, paper and cooking oil — and exchange it for over 65 products on our website.”

Products for trading include rice, tea, pasta, cooking oil, subway tickets and school supplies.

Bekia was launched in Cairo in 2017. Initially, the business model did not prove successful.

“We used to rent a car and go to certain locations every 40 days to collect waste from people,” Afifi, 26, explained. “We then created a website and started encouraging people to use it.”

After the website was launched, people could wait at home for someone to collect the waste. “Instead of 40 days, we now could visit people within a week.”

To use Bekia’s services, people need to log onto the website and specify what they want to discard. They are assigned points based on the waste they are offering, and these points can be used in one of three ways: Donated to people in need, saved for later, or exchanged for products. As for the collected waste, it is given to specialized recycling companies for processing.

“We want to have 50,000 customers over the next two years who regularly use our service to get rid of their waste,” Afifi said.  

Trying to spread environmental awareness has not been easy. “We had a lot of trouble with initial investment at first, and we got through with an investment that was far from enough. The second problem we faced was spreading this culture among people — in the first couple of months, we received no orders,” Afifi said.

The team soldiered on and slowly built a client base, currently serving 7,000 customers. In terms of what lies ahead for Bekia, he said: “We’re expanding from 22 to 30 areas in Cairo this year. We’re launching an app very soon and a new website with better features.”

Go Clean, another Egyptian recycling startup dedicated to raising environmental awareness, works under the patronage of the Ministry of Environment. “We started in 2017 by recycling waste from factories, and then by February 2019 we started expanding,” said founder and CEO Mohammed Hamdy, 30.

The Cairo-based company collects recyclables from virtually all places, including households, schools, universities, restaurants, cafes, companies and embassies. The customers separate the items into categories and then fill out a registration form. Alternatively, they can make contact through WhatsApp or Facebook. A driver is then dispatched to collect the waste, carrying a scale to weigh it. 

“The client can be paid in cash for the weight of their recyclables, or they can make a donation to a special needs school in Cairo,” Hamdy explained. There is also the option of trading the waste for dishwashing soap, with more household products to be added in the future.

Trying to cover a country with 100 million people was never going to be easy, and Go Clean faced some logistical problems. It overcame them by hiring more drivers and getting more trucks. There was another challenge along the way: “We had to figure out a way to train the drivers, from showing them how to use GPS and deal with clients,” said Hamdy.

“We want to spread awareness about the environment everywhere. We go to schools, universities, companies and even factories to give sessions about the importance of recycling and how dangerous plastic is. We’re currently covering 20 locations across Cairo and all of Alexandria. We want to cover all of Egypt in the future,” he added.

With a new app on the way, Hamdy said things are looking positive for the social startup, and people are becoming invested in the initiative. “We started out with seven orders per day, and now we get over 100.”