Tell us about yourself.
I was born in Pakse, Champassak Province in the South of Lao PDR, and moved to the capital, Vientiane, when I was four years old. I have three brothers and growing up, our parents always encouraged us to study. Our favorite subjects in school were math and science.
Living in Vientiane has given us a lot of opportunities to pursue high levels of education. I graduated from the National University of Laos with a degree in civil engineering, and I worked as an engineer in Laos before moving to Japan to study my master’s and then a PhD in economic development. I am now a professor at the Faculty of Environmental Sciences (FES) under the National University of Laos.
How did you come up with the idea for ‘FES Waste Recycle Bank’? How does it work?
I had learned that waste was fast becoming a huge problem in our country, and the whole world. So I started to search for efficient and effective ways to convince people to reduce, re-use and recycle waste products, by researching and asking colleagues working in the environmental field. And so at the end of 2017, my colleagues and I established the FES Waste Recycle Bank.
People can bring different types of waste to us, where we then measure it, determine the waste’s monetary value, and deposit the return into their bank account. This initiative aims to share knowledge about solid waste management, promote waste segregation at its source, and it turns waste into valuable products, such as baskets, bowls and key chains.
We plan to establish similar banks in other faculties of the National University of Laos, in schools, and in some of the markets around [the Laos capital] Vientiane. The idea is to build a network of waste banks.
We want people to acknowledge the value of waste, and use resources in more efficient and sustainable ways. Our long-term goal is to bring the concept of circular economy in to practice in Laos. Currently, our waste bank can only accept certain types of waste such as plastic bottles, paper and metals for instance. Soon, we will accept more types of waste into our bank; as we are now working on ways to turn waste into resources; such as energy and furniture.
I’ve also been involved in a World Bank-supported Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for Laos, part of the Second Lao Environment and Social Project (LENS). The project aims to strengthen environmental protection and biodiversity management across Laos by building capacity at the government, civil society and community level, particularly around pollution reduction. And I have also been involved in data collection for a World Bank study into plastic waste that will contribute to Lao government’s new Road Map and Action Plan for reducing plastic waste.