Like many founders of family recycling businesses throughout the world, Shiraz Hamirani began collecting recyclable materials before corporations began issuing sustainability reports.
Shiraz co-founded Dubai, United Arab Emirates-based Paper Chase International in 1988, with the company getting its start in Saudi Arabia before moving its head office to Jebel Ali, Dubai, in 1990. In the subsequent 20-plus years, he has tailored a business strategy that has allowed the company to grow to where it currently ships 25,000 tons (22,680 tonnes) per month of recovered fibre to mills in Asia.
As it heads into 2013, Paper Chase International operates six plants in five different countries, has diversified its business by handling plastic scrap and can now capitalize on its recycling assets and services by appealing to the sustainability goals of multi-national manufacturers and retailers doing business in the Middle East.
When looking back at the early years of Paper Chase, Shiraz says the paper recycling infrastructure in the Middle East was still in need of further development, as was the habit or practice of recycling.
“In the late 1980s, there was quite a lot of paper going to the landfill,” Shiraz says of the waste and recycling landscape in the Middle East in that era. “At that time, there was demand from mills in India and Indonesia, but not very many collectors.”
To Shiraz’ way of thinking, that pointed to an opportunity. “So we started on a smaller scale,” he says of his initial efforts as well as those of a founding partner who is no longer with the company, “and it turned out to be a very good potential industry.”
Shiraz says good service and fair prices on the collection side and reliable quality standards on the selling side have been keys to the growth and durability of Paper Chase International over a three-decade span.
“As we started, print houses supported us and they perceived they could get a small value for [what had been] waste,” notes Shiraz. In addition to print shops, department stores, supermarkets, warehouses and box plants that generate cardboard also have become mainstays on the Paper Chase collection side of the business. As well, the company rebales paper purchased from smaller collectors.
Shiraz lists old corrugated containers (OCC) as Paper Chase’s largest volume grade today, followed by printers’ trim, overissued newspapers, magazines and sorted white ledger and office pack.
On the mill sales side, Shiraz says, “In the Middle East there are a few paper mills, in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, so about 40% of our fibre stays in this region. The rest is exported away.”
The company interacts with mills in several export markets, with Shiraz saying he is especially proud of long-lasting relationships on the mill side. “We sell to major mills in Asia, China and India. These mills have supported us for a long time. Competitive service, price and quality of materials shipped are added advantages of the company and have helped our company to maintain a reputation today,” he adds. “At each location we have an organized waste paper collection system which is adhering to a local municipality or environmental group. The company has developed a name and sizeable collection at each plant in the Middle East.”
Paper Chase currently employs more than 600 people who Shiraz says “are well-trained for [preparing] different grades of waste paper” at different locations.
“We have our own sorting stations in all our plants,” says Shiraz. “What is received from different printing houses can come in as a mixed grade. Almost everything that has been collected from a printing house or, say, a furniture store, it has to be sorted and a different grade made depending on the mill’s requirement.”
|From top, Shiraz Hamirani, co-founder of Paper Chase International, with his son Zoheb Hamirani, business development director, and with daughter Farah Hamirani, director of finance and management.|
The ability for Paper Chase to maintain its quality standards does not fall upon any one person, notes Shiraz, who points to the hard work of plant managers and operation supervisors, including the second generation of Hamirani family members.
A Second Generation
As Paper Chase International embarks upon its third decade as a global recycling firm, among those helping to guide the company are 30-year-old Zoheb Hamirani and his younger sister Farah, Shiraz’ son and daughter.
“They used to work on the weekends during their university studies,” says Shiraz, “and once they graduated from university, they started liking the business and very much are into the business today.”
Zoheb has been learning all aspects of the business and is involved with trading, operations and business development, says Shiraz.
Farah, a 2007 graduate of the American University in Dubai, helps manage Paper Chase International’s finances, administration and business development.
When asked what helps set Paper Chase International apart from its competitors, Farah also points to the company’s key operations personnel. “We have personally trained plant supervisors based in all our plants who are specialized in grading all qualities of waste paper as per the international standard,” she comments.
The attention to quality, says Farah, has paid dividends. “We have, over the years, developed relations with the top mills in China, Thailand, Korea, etc., and enjoy the privilege of selling to them at a preferential arrangement, as they enjoy assurance of quality and timely shipments from us,” she comments. “We believe these qualities set us apart from our competitors.”
It is a team effort, says Farah, but she also notes that she and Zoheb “have our father Mr. Shiraz Hamirani always guiding and leading us.”
Likewise, Shiraz is complimentary about the work habits and talents he has seen in his son and daughter. “At the moment, I can see that they can replace their father in the coming years.”
As it heads into 2013, Dubai, United Arab Emirates-based Paper Chase International will be able to use recently purchased baling equipment intended to increase productivity levels at several of the company’s plants.
According to Paper Chase Managing Director Shiraz Hamirani, three new balers made by Paal Group, Georgsmarienhütte, Germany, have been installed at plants in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Farah Hamirani, Shiraz’ daughter and a director with the company, says the new balers are newer models from Paal “with production capacity of 15 tonnes per hour.” The units can make bales with average weights ranging from 900 to 1,200 kilograms (1 to 1.3 tonnes), depending on the type of material being baled, she adds.
Shiraz says the three new Paal balers replaced older models that had served the company well, and the new ones have stepped in nicely. “They have been very good, and so far there has been no outside maintenance or service that is really needed,” he comments.
When he has worked with Paal in the past, however, Shiraz says it has been a smooth experience. “When maintenance or parts are needed, they are very cooperative.”
Room to Grow
Having started with 15 employees and grown to approximately 650, Shiraz can rightly be proud of how far Paper Chase International has travelled.
He says, however, that he largely anticipated such growth was possible and that he, Zoheb, Farah and the rest of the company’s managers are planning for more growth yet. “We saw most of the growth coming after 1990; that’s how we kept on expanding,” says Shiraz of Paper Chase’s expansion to its current six locations.
The company’s newest facility, opened in 2012, is a plant in Jordan. However, according to Shiraz, the Paper Chase International name is likely to appear at a few more locations in the coming years.
“We plan on setting up more plants in the Middle East, slowly and steadily,” says Shiraz. “We have decided to grow our collection by 20% over the next three years, then we’ll take it how it goes,” he states.
Even though papermaking capacity may have peaked in some parts of the world, the Hamiranis see positive developments that are creating opportunities. “We have seen an upward trend in the recycling industry, as awareness is constantly increasing, and we see a continuous demand for fibre,” says Farah. “We have also experienced support from local communities and authorities on various recycling programs.”
Shiraz is particularly complimentary of the United Arab Emirates and the emirate of Dubai, in particular, when it comes to support. “Dubai municipality and The Emirate Environmental Group (a nongovernmental organisation based in Dubai) are really very supportive in waste collection systems,” he remarks. “However, from other GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries, we are trying to develop more awareness.”
In terms of processing and shipping its recyclable materials, Paper Chase has recently invested in new balers made by Germany’s Paal Group that Farah says have a “production capacity of 15 tonnes per hour and an average bale weight ranging from 900 to 1,200 kilos (1 to 1.3 tonnes), depending on the type of material we are baling.” (See “Newly Equipped” above)
The installation of new equipment and the addition of more commodities to handle (such as plastic) can help Paper Chase maintain its forward momentum, but adhering to the company’s core values will always be foremost on the minds of Hamirani family members.
“In our business the key traits are quality and commitment,” says Shiraz. “You must have a high quality standard, plus a commitment to your word when prices go up and down.”
Shiraz says the company’s long-term relationships with the customers from whom it collects and the mill customers to which it sells depend on commitment. “If you’re looking for a few quick dollars, you can’t grow in the long run. You have to stand by the price with your customers. Paper prices fluctuate every week.”
With its three-decade long track record and a demonstrated willingness to invest to maintain its quality, Paper Chase International is showing the type of commitment that is likely to secure its place in the global recycling industry.
The author is editorial director and associate publisher of Recycling Today Media Group and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.