Pakistani-owned TakeMyJunk collection service turns UAE’s trash into treasure

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The company’s double-story, 400,000sq warehouse, Ajman, UAE.( supplied by TakeMyJunk)
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A range of furniture to fit all pocket sizes Ajman, UAE ( supplied by TakeMyJunk)
Updated 30 September 2019

Pakistani-owned TakeMyJunk collection service turns UAE’s trash into treasure

  • Ajman-based TakeMyJunk service has become a major success in the last ten years
  • The company frequently gives away items free of cost

AJMAN: A mug from HardRock café sits right next to a plastic trophy resembling the Oscar statuette at a massive warehouse in Ajman that collects junk from homes and turns it into treasure. One can also see rare paintings, books and other unique items at the depository.
“The UAE is like a massive airport,” said Faisal Khan, the Pakistani owner of TakeMyJunk, a service that picks up stuff free of cost and sells it to middle- and lower-income families.
Launched 10 years ago and based on the waste segregation system in Canada, the idea is now a roaring success in the United Arab Emirates.
“Dubai is a transit city. People come here for a few years and then all that they have made has to be sold or thrown away. Sometimes people don’t have enough time to sell their belongings. That’s where companies like us come in and pick up the stuff,” he added.
All items are transported to the warehouse in Ajman, sorted, refurbished and then sold at nominal prices to customers hunting for a good deal.

Discarded portraits at warehouse, Ajman, UAE ( ( supplied by TakeMyJunk)

Some items are given away too, if people cannot afford them. Course books, clothes and kitchen items are often a steal.
“I recently started save-a-sofa campaign which triggered hundreds of people to call. We repaired the sofas and tried to sell them, if possible, and then we gave them away to 150,000 workers in a 14 km radius behind the warehouses,” Khan told Arab News.
Every week, the company still delivers items that cannot be sold to workers who find them useful.
The company started operating on 400 square feet of space and has now expanded to a double-story building that covers 100,000 sq ft. It had one truck and now owns 35. The number of employees was two 10 years ago and is now 35.
44-year-old Khan himself drove around Dubai’s high-end residential area when the business began, collecting anything from towels and clothes to furniture from expats who would have thrown them away before returning home.
Today, his hotline hardly stops buzzing. “The people here are educated and don’t want to throw stuff away on the streets. They prefer to call us and, if needed, we buy things in bulk or just pick up their junk,” he said.

Popular deals: Meeting the needs of kids too Ajman, UAE  ( supplied by TakeMyJunk)

There are no fixed prices, but customers still try to bargain.
“We are not a charity shop but we provide stuff to lower and middle classes,” Shaikh Galib Hussain, sales and marketing manager who was recently hired to manage the expanding business, explained.
“Our target is not to let it go,” he said. “Even if people want to give away books or clothes, we take them and make them useful.”
Hussain said the money from the sales was used to manage the company’s day-to-day operations. “There is a huge cost involved in transportation, staff maintenance, obtaining licenses, restoring furniture etc.”
Prasana Urlal, who has been living in the UAE for nine years, told Arab News he was a frequent visitor of the shop.
“Stuff here is good and if I had to buy from outside, it would have been very expensive,” said the Indian national.
Items such as furniture, books, clothes, kitchen items, electronics are picked up. If they cannot be repaired and sold, they are sent for recycling.
On an average, the company’s workers collect around 5,000 items while 1,000 people walk into the warehouse daily. Since the work is done free of cost, people often tip the workers.
“I don’t think the demand for these items will go down in the near future because the population keeps increasing and is moving,” said Khan. “This will keep our business going and help those in need too.”

'No food left in the sea': Pakistani fishermen fearful as Chinese trawlers dock at Karachi port 

Updated 19 October 2020

'No food left in the sea': Pakistani fishermen fearful as Chinese trawlers dock at Karachi port 

  • Fisherfolk forum says government plan to allow Chinese to carry out deep-sea fishing in territorial waters could render millions jobless 
  • Federal government says bottom trawling will not be allowed under new fishing policy

KARACHI: A pressure group that represents Pakistani fishermen has said a government plan to allow Chinese companies to carry out deep-sea fishing in the country’s territorial waters could threaten the survival of at least three million people who depend on the sea for livelihood.
Last month, 12 Chinese deep-sea trawlers docked at the port of Karachi, unleashing fear among local fishermen who say commercial fishing vessels and bottom-trawling would deplete fish stocks in the exclusive federal sea zones off the Sindh and Balochistan provinces. 
Bottom trawling - dragging nets across the sea floor to scoop up fish - stirs up the sediment lying on the seabed, displaces or harms some marine species, causes pollutants to mix into plankton and move into the food chain and creates harmful algae blooms or oxygen-deficient dead zones.
The coastal line of Sindh and Balochistan is 1,050 km long, Mohammad Ali Shah, Chairman Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, told Arab News last week, saying around three million fishermen relied on the sea to survive. 
A new fishing policy is expected but yet to be revealed by the government, he said. 
“The deep-sea trawler policy has not yet been approved but before that they [China] have brought these trawlers,” Shah said, calling the arrival of the Chinese vessels at Karachi port last month ‘illegal.’ 

In this undated photo, fishing vessels of Fujian Fishery Company move from the Gwadar port towards Karachi, Pakistan (Photo courtesy: Fishermen Cooperatives Society)

In 2018, the government enacted a deep-sea fishing licensing policy that both fishermen's representative bodies and provincial government bodies opposed, calling it a constitutional violation and an encroachment on the livelihoods of fishermen in the coastal provinces.
Fears about foreign fishing companies eating up local communities are not new.
For years, fishermen in the southwestern city of Gwadar in Balochistan province - a flagship of the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor - have protested against foreign trawlers. 
Tensions first began to mount when the Fisheries Department disclosed its plan to issue licenses to various foreign fishing vessels to operate in an exclusive economic zone in 2016.
But last week, the federal minister for maritime affairs, Ali Haider Zaidi, told Arab News the country’s new deep-sea fishing policy would not allow Chinese trawlers to engage in unregulated deep-sea fishing. Bottom trawling, he said, would be banned under the new policy.
“Importing boats is not illegal,” he said. “How you use them has to be regulated.”
Pakistan divides its sea into three zones, where zone-3 (from 20 to 200 nautical miles) is controlled by the federal government. Up to 12 nautical miles (zone-1) is the domain of the provinces Sindh and Balochistan and between 12 to 20 nautical miles the sea is declared a buffer zone. 

Fishermen remove fish from a net at the Clifton beach in Pakistan's port city of Karachi on Oct. 6, 2020. (AFP/File)

Local fishermen are not allowed to fish in zone-3 and foreign fishing vessels are not permitted to fish in the other two zones under the existing policy.
The Fishermen's Cooperative Society (FCS), which issued the permit to the Chinese trawlers, said the Chinese fishing vessels would not use the destructive bottom trawling method and instead help ‘upgrade’ Pakistan’s fishing industry and export.
Official figures put the annual value of Pakistan’s fish exports at roughly $450 million.
“Bringing Chinese trawlers for deep sea fishing is in line with the government’s deep-sea fishing policy and aimed at upgrading and modernizing fishing, besides providing job opportunities to local fishermen,” Abdul Berr, Chairman of the Fishermen's Cooperative Society, told Arab News.
“Around 3,500 fishermen will get employment opportunities with the arrival of the world’s latest fishing boats and modern small boats,” Berr said. 
He added: “First, 70 percent of the staff at trawlers and processing facilities will be local. There will be no fishing in provincial territorial waters. The trawlers will bring all their catch to Karachi where it will be processed in factories and then exported.”
Small local fishermen would receive modern fiber boats on ‘easy instalments,’ Berr said, a step towards replacing their obsolete boats.
But Sindh’s minister for livestock and fisheries, Abdul Bari Pitafi, said the mega fishing ships would wipe out sea-life, even if they were only operating in the federal government’s zone-3.
“We will...also oppose its [trawlers’] operations in zone-3 because they will just wipe out sea-life including the fish’s seed,” Pitafi told Arab News.
In 2016, a survey carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organisation revealed that more than 72 percent of the fish stock in Pakistan’s coastal areas had already declined.
“One trawler does a catch that is equal to a catch by 100 of our fishing boats,” Younus Khaskheli, a fisherman, said. “And their fishing net is the most dangerous one, because it hunts thousands of tons of fish.” 
Tens of thousands of fishing boats are registered in Pakistan, he said, with fishermen from Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and even Bangladesh fishing in these waters.
“Our sea stock will end; the country will lose the income of billions and our fishermen will become jobless,” Khaskheli said. “There won’t be any food left in the sea.”