April 22, 2022, marked the 52nd anniversary of Earth Day. This year’s Earth Day was Invest in Our Planet. RecyGlo, the first-ever innovative recycling service solution in Myanmar, invests in the future of our planet. They produce and sell organic fertilizers to farmers and data-driven Internet of Things advisory solutions.
A global pandemic and environmental challenges are putting unprecedented pressure on how the world will manage to feed its people, leading to an increased need to find sustainable agricultural solutions. We see a rise in technology, which has distanced us from nature, but dependence on technology has not changed our reliance on the natural world. Let’s discover how RecyGlo is helping create better food systems.
What is RecyGlo and how do you operate?
RecyGlo is comprised of two words – recycle globally. We manage around 1,000 tons of waste every month, of which 70% is organic waste. Our sustainability and waste data analytics dashboard helps businesses and organizations to reduce pollution by educating, recycling and recovering the value from waste. We also provide monitoring and automation for the entire circular economy.
First, we do waste awareness training so communities or businesses can start to learn and separate different waste types into each container. We then provide waste collection of the segregated waste. Finally, we send the collected waste to the recycling factory. This way, we can measure the impact in real numbers.
It is always good to measure your impact in a documented, organized manner. We keep track of how many awareness sessions we give, how many bins we provide, and how many kilograms are produced per week or month. With such meticulous documentation, we hand over the report to our clients so they can see, measure, and compare the results of their waste production and volume.
Who do you work with and what solutions do you provide? What has the impact been so far?
Decomposing waste material can pollute the environment and become hazardous to people. We work with businesses and consumers on their waste management requirements. We connect with logistics and recycling facilities worldwide to provide zero waste management solutions as well as traceability, data analytics, and carbon footprint reporting. We also have technology for waste-to-energy, waste-to-fertilizer and livestock, and recycling used cooking oil. We also use the collected plastic waste to create wood-substitute lumber.
So far, RecyGlo has diverted around 30,000 tons of waste from landfills in South Asian markets and educated more than 800,000 people. It is already a big step and we believe the number is still growing.
What challenges have you faced in implementing the innovation?
After RecyGlo was launched in May 2017, we started pitching potential investors. Most investors had zero interest in us because environment-focused startups don’t seem like a lucrative opportunity or a way to generate profit. We had a hard time recruiting people to work with us.
Refusing to give up, we finally gathered the courage to separate ourself from similar organizations by covering a specific issue. In 2017, there were only a few waste-focused organizations, with most of them being charity-based. They enacted waste awareness campaigns, waste management, and other environmental-related activities, but there was no great long-term solution to offer the partaking stakeholders. Then we realized that this gap in the industry could be filled by recycling.
Additionally, Myanmar’s proper waste management system is invisible and everybody in the country throws their waste into only one bin without separating it. RecyGlo realized it could solve this problem by offering service packages.
How do you manage natural resource use and help improve the water-energy-food nexus’s sustainability?
RecyGlo believes in promoting smart recycling habits to attain long-lasting results. At first, we started with the classic three Rs – Reuse, Reduce and Recycle. But after we began awareness training sessions for communities, businesses, organizations, and schools, among others, we concluded that there are two more Rs that need to be addressed before the three Rs – to Rethink and Refuse. It’s a simple sign, yet an overlooked notion. To rethink is to take a moment before we buy or indulge in consuming something. While refuse focuses on acknowledging that if it’s not useful to us, or if we use it only once, we shouldn’t use it at all.
How is your innovation building resilience for smallholder farmers and women? How many farmers do you reach with your innovation?
RecyGlo is currently producing organic-material fertilizer for smallholder farmers. In addition, we turn some organic waste into energy by doing waste-to-energy off-grid micro plants in various communities, with the remaining by-products being turned into organic compost.
RecyGlo works with farmers to do large-scale composting and add minerals to produce organic materials and compound fertilizer. We also are expanding the organic waste recycling to produce and sell organic fertilizers to farmers and offer data-driven, Internet of Things advisory solutions.
We reach more than 1,000,000 farmers across Southeast Asia and are rapidly growing. Southeast Asia is a predominantly agricultural community, so crop growers need food and commodity production support. Our innovation creates job opportunities in the agricultural sector and provides technologies and raw materials for food production. Our short-term goal is to solve immediate problems for the food growers and ensure financial, environmental, and social sustainability.
We prioritize the base of the pyramid community, disadvantaged socio-economic groups, and female food growers. We do this through a couple of different activities:
- through agricultural banks and microfinance institutions, we support farmers with benefits like insurance;
- our high-margin products fund low-margin products; and
- by integrating women into our activities, we have created 60,000 jobs for women in the value chains.
What is your recommendation to other upcoming entrepreneurs looking build their company?
If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, it is not going to be easy, but it will be the best journey of your life. Don’t rush for what is not meant to be. Stay on your pace and learn first. The world is your classroom – from the current company that employs you, to the start-ups and founders that came before you. You will know when you are ready.
Our strategy is to build strong partnerships with the goal of collaboration. We don’t want to compete against the local startups or local businesses. The most important part of starting an idea is actually to follow it. RecyGlo also was once nothing more than an idea, but we mustered our courage. We took baby steps at first. And now, look how far we have run. We believe in the power of community. Great changes start from the community, be it your neighborhood, city, or country.
RecyGlo is a waste-management and data analytics startup based in Myanmar. RecyGlo is committed to producing environmentally friendly recycling solutions for Myanmar, and Malaysia. Founded in May 2017, its mission is to process materials in a non-hazardous manner to keep the planet clean. RecyGlo believes in promoting smart recycling habits to attain long-lasting results.
Yogeeta Sharma is a Communications and Knowledge Management Specialist for the WE4F South and Southeast Asia Regional Innovation Hub. Previously, she has worked with various USAID programs and gained essential experience in the development sector. She loves bringing innovators’ vision into a virtual reality here at WE4F.