Dubai polypropylene recycler booms during pandemic

Published on May 10, 2022

From raising awareness of plastic pollution to recycling polypropylene and turning used nappies into plywood, Trident Trackway’s Theresa and David Wernery are walking the sustainability talk

As a couple who spent four months driving their pickup truck across two continents through 26 countries to promote anti-pollution causes, sustainability has never been far off the minds of Theresa and David Wernery.

It was ten years ago that the pair travelled through countries including Bulgaria, Ukraine, Norway and Iran as part of their campaign, Plastic Not So Fantastic, to discuss the problem of plastic pollution with local environmentalists.

Fast-forward a decade and the couple are leading their own sustainability revolution through their UAE-based tech start-up Trident Trackway. The company makes heavy-duty portable flooring products from recycled plastic in the UAE, enabling the construction of temporary roadways and staging areas.

Three years ago, the Dubai-based couple started exploring the idea of sustainability in the construction and events industries.

Being based in the UAE, where the sector was thriving but relied heavily on trackway products that needed importing, the couple wanted to provide a homegrown solution.

“We decided to develop our own product here for the local market, made with locally sourced recycled plastic waste and mould,” explains Theresa Wernery, co-founder of Trident Trackway.

By late 2019 the couple had their first prototype of a product made from locally sourced, recycled post-industrial and post-consumer plastic. It not only aims to reduce the volume of plastic waste going to landfills but can also be recycled back into the supply chain.

The couple’s emerging businesses saw them make some deals with Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. But then COVID-19 hit.

Boom despite the pandemic

Many start-ups had to curb business in the pandemic. But Trident Trackway boomed – thanks to Dubai’s Expo 2020.

Given the pandemic’s impact on imports and exports, Expo 2020 wanted a local solution that could provide surface protection for the entire site during the construction phase, enabling all the heavy site traffic to cross the Expo venue daily. Trident Trackway were contracted for the entire project.

“That was a great, great project for us,” said Theresa. “For them, it was a locally-made product made with locally sourced recycled plastic.”

Since then, business has grown exponentially.

To date, Trident Trackway has recycled about 440 tonnes of polypropylene. Half of that was used for Expo, equivalent to about 30,000 square metres, or six football pitches.

The company is now in an expansion phase. The aim is to have a factory in Dubai in 2023, and further factories planned for Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The couple are now working on the prototype for a new product to create recycled plywood from everyday waste.

“We’re looking at really taking everything that is non-recyclable, such as nappies, car filters, air filters and all that upholstery from when they break cars up and things like that. Now we can recycle that as we can take any waste and turn it into recycled plywood,” David Wernery says.

He credits being “in the right place at the right time” for Trident Trackway’s success, at a time when sustainability is firmly on the UAE’s agenda.

Towards more sustainable operations

Besides creating a recycled product, the company has worked to embed sustainability across its operation in association with Living Business. By replacing two manufacturers with one closer to its warehouse and facility, it was able to reduce carbon emissions between 56-93% respectively. Finding a new source of waste polypropylene led to a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions. The two changes also had a social impact, leading to improved employee welfare measures.

“It was an excellent programme to be part of. They were fantastic at helping us connect with all of our value chain and it got us a lot of good exposure,” David says.

Now they hope to change existing misconceptions about recycled products: people often believe they are lower quality and more expensive.

“Our recycled products are a better alternative as compared to traditional products on the market. They last longer. They are recyclable. Plus, you’re helping the environment. There is value to waste, and they can be a very resourceful product.”