Mohammed Abu Shahla and Shaima Qahwaji are the owners of Eco-Stone. Their start-up focuses on the production of environmentally friendly bricks from waste, including glass.

Mohammed Abu Shahla, Shaimaa Al Qassas and Ali Al Shawwf, three engineering students met at a local competition in Gaza and introduced their idea of turning waste into bricks. This next generation of building materials idea was then developed further to become their graduation thesis.

“It started when we met at the university competition in Gaza. We were exploring the possibilities of recycling and turning waste into environmentally friendly products. We started with organic waste, but it was difficult and beyond our abilities. We then decided to try waste glass. It was feasible and produced in large quantities in Gaza,” Mohammed said.

The Gaza Strip produces 45 tons of glass waste on daily basis from the glass factories, food, and bottles. The possibility presented itself and the team saw the need and the opportunity to introduce stone cycling. They decided to work on the glass waste and process it to have a product that resembles the famed Jerusalem bricks that are used for external and internal construction and beautification.

Once the team started examining the How behind turning the idea from research into a product, they became aware of the START initiative that is implemented by UNDP as part of the Path to Economic Recovery and Empowerment: Facilitating Decent Jobs in the Gaza Strip project.

With funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and in partnership with the University College of Applied Sciences Technology Incubator (UCASTI), UNDP is supporting the establishment of start-ups. Since 2020, 300 young Palestinians from Gaza were trained through the START initiative and 64 start-ups were incubated including Eco-Stone. Around 30 start-ups are expected to benefit from incubation in 2022.

“With around US$5,500, we were able to work on our first prototype, test its durability and enhance it to mitigate the risks and deficiencies. We first noticed that the product is not very flexible and there are some air gaps. The materials needed to solve it were not available in Gaza. To solve this, we had to manufacture an alternative component to solve it, and we successfully did. We also ensured that the bricks passed the sound and temperature insulation tests. This was certified by the UCAS lab and the respective authorities here,” Shaimaa explained.

The production of the brick itself was a challenging process for the team, especially in the Gaza Strip. Most of the raw materials used in manufacturing were not allowed to enter the Strip, thus the team had to create their version of those materials. The team also wanted the create bricks with a unique finish, to look both beautiful-appealing, sustainable, environmentally friendly, and feasible at the same time.

“We need an investment of around US$ 15,000 to 20,000 to establish our production line. We believe that it is an investment opportunity that should not be missed. Our bricks are incredibly unique compared to other environmentally friendly ones. The standard flexibility rate is from four to six megapascal while in our brick it is from 10 to 12. For absorption, the standard rate is between two to five percent while our rate stands at three percent, and it is two thirds less in weight than the natural stone with 60 percent less cost. We believe that the future is all about a circular world and recycling waste is a key component. We hope that we, as youth, will be part of that change,” Mohammed concluded.

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