Burning trash, garbage-filled rivers, waste strewn along streets...
These are all things that Myanmar, one of the poorest and most underdeveloped country of Southeast Asia, has not been able to deal with effectively in its current state of increased modernization and consumerism. The waste management infrastructure is proportionally one of the worst in the region.
Myanmar is a heavily Buddhist country with one of the
world's longest-running ethnic conflicts and a history of half a century
of military dictatorship that recently and controversially transitioned
to a more democratic form. In 2009, the waste disposal sites for the
country consisted of 2 open dump sites. Most people burn their trash,
which produces large amounts of one of the most toxic substances in
LINC Myanmar's solution is a focus on building linkage between communities and safe waste disposal sites and facilities like recycling plants, leading to a great decrease of the direct health risks posed by trash to both people and the surrounding ecosystems while also better unifying the country's peoples and creating economic opportunities for those in the local community.
Though the project is looking to expand in Myanmar, the first projected location is Kyaukme, Shan State, which has a more diverse ethnic makeup inlcuding Bamar, Shan, and Palaung people. It is 3.5 hours away from Mandalay on the highway and is surrounded by mountains with Palaung villages.
Currently in Kyaukme, the trash from citizens is collected every 2-3 days by government trucks and taken to a mile-long landfill stream 20 minutes outside of town, where the refuse is set on fire in the evenings by government workers, polluting the sky with large columns of smoke.
Waste pickers search the landfill for aluminum cans, plastics, glass bottles, and other metals sold by its weight.
There are shops in Kyaukme where people can sell recyclables to, which end up at recycling plants in big cities.
The biggest question is, why aren't more people selling recyclables instead of having them taken to be landfilled and burned?
LINC Myanmar keeps the focus on these important points:
Context and community:
Solutions should be shaped as the people desire and to best meet the needs of the community's situation.
Solutions shouldn't be quick-fixes, but long-lasting changes of habit for the better, with visible benefits, such as economic gain and a decrease in pollution and health ailments.