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FEATURE STORY May 31, 2019

Meet the Innovators Battling Plastic Waste in Myanmar: Min Kyaw Zin

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Marine plastics have put our oceans in danger. By 2050, it is estimated the volume of plastic will be greater than that of fish in the sea. Countries in East Asia and the Pacific contribute the most to marine plastic pollution. For World Oceans Day 2019, we are shining a spotlight on innovators working to stem the tide of marine debris in the epicenter of this crisis.

After learning how to create products using banana leaves, Min Kyaw Zin worked to scale up and adapt them to replace plastic and Styrofoam use. Today, he creates biodegradable goods and packing made from betel farm by-products, and is helping to reduce plastic use in Myanmar.

Tell us about yourself, and your work.

My name is Min Kyaw Zin. I attended the Yangon University of Foreign Languages and Monywa Economic University in Sagaing Region, where I graduated with a master’s degree in Business Management. Prior to establishing Nature Myanmar, I ran small businesses, from a restaurant to a career developing a training center. In November 2018, I co-founded Nature Myanmar with my friend Ko Than Zaw Oo to create ecofriendly products. Our vision is to provide green solutions to change people’s habit of using plastic and non-degradable materials. 

How is plastic waste an issue for oceans and waterways in Myanmar?

Plastic is a huge problem in Myanmar. Locally, people have been using it for decades without proper waste management. Plastic and other non-degradable products have been piling up in waterways and everywhere, not only in urban areas but also in rural areas. 

When did you first get involved in trying to address this issue?

The issue of plastic waste has always been on my mind. The idea came to me while watching a video on Youtube back in 2017 on how to create disposable products using banana leaves. I was inspired by this and started thinking of ways to adapt it locally. In Myanmar, everyone uses plastic and Styrofoam boxes, because they have no other option. I had been traveling to Tanintharyi Region frequently, and there I found a large area of betel farms. It was there where I got the idea to use Areca sheath for disposable goods and packaging. I found a partner who shared my interest and vision. That’s how the project got started. 


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What do you hope your work can achieve?

We’re mainly hoping to create wider public awareness on the importance of changing habits around using plastic and non-degradable materials. We also expect to create employment opportunities, either directly or indirectly, especially among the uneducated and unskilled. Eventually, we would like to see a positive impact on rural development, perhaps by supporting the provision of machinery and technical assistance to rural areas to support larger production, and in the long run, to reduce poverty. 

What motivates or inspires you?

I feel motivated by the idea of producing solutions locally. 

How can people get involved?

Because this is a public campaign, it’s essential to get everyone involved. I would call it a “consumer-based intervention project,” though understandably it is also a business model. However, business models alone cannot survive. Project interventions by many important stakeholders are crucial for the next steps. For this intervention to move forward, we need to ensure that the next generation is involved. One way to do that is by setting a good example for them to follow. 

What is the one change you’d like to see every person in Myanmar make to reduce plastic pollution?

I want people to realize that there are substitutes to plastic and that we can use biodegradable products. This is my priority. I want to see every person in Myanmar join in this consumer-based intervention project to reduce plastic pollution. At the same time, we would also like to scale up our production by getting more betel farmers involved. 



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