Innovative Entrepreneurship: Driving Change in Thailand's Waste Management Landscape - SecondMuse

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    Program Manager of Circularity, Titus Loh, shares key learnings from the Thailand Waste Management & Recycling Academy.

    As part of our commitment to advancing circular economies and strengthening entrepreneurial ecosystems towards plastic pollution mitigation, SecondMuse collaborated with impact-focused investment firm Seedstars to launch the Thailand Waste Management & Recycling Academy (WMRA), with the aim of supporting innovative entrepreneurship in creating solutions and driving sustainable practices in waste management and recycling in the country.

    With the long-term goal of empowering local entrepreneurs and ventures to scale their innovations across Thailand, the WMRA’s initial phase provided 11 ventures with a diverse range of development activities, including entrepreneurship workshops and mentoring. By the end of the nine-week program, more than 80% of teams reported significant improvement in their overall progress.

    For the second phase, four of these startups were selected to participate in customized activities, including a journey mapping exercise, one-on-one coaching sessions, and monitoring and evaluation of their progress, with the goal of piloting their solutions for real-world applications. Over the course of nine months, the tailored program helped the cohort take the next steps in their respective growth journeys and establish proof-of-concept of their plastic waste reduction solutions. The four teams and their solutions are: 

    • Plaplus: Solution provider for bioplastic waste processing and recycling, as well as waste management and collection services for corporate clients and local communities.
      Key program achievements: Diverted 14,820 kgs of food waste, recyclable and non-recyclable plastics from landfill over one year. Conducted tests for post-consumer PLA cup recycling via industrial composting and created prototypes of products made out of recycled PLA 3D printing filament.
    • ReNew Innovations: Developed a bio-coating solution for cellulose-based products (such as paper and bio-based materials) for the development of potential alternatives to plastic packaging.
      Key program achievements: Developed and extensively tested a new formulation for their bio-coating solution (utilizing natural, locally sourced raw materials) in partnership with several industry players.
    • Micro Greentech: Innovation tech startup aiming to improve community recycling rates mainly in Thailand’s outskirt areas, through the creation of Reverse Vending Machines for PET plastic bottles and aluminum cans.
      Key program achievements: Developed and piloted a fully-functional prototype of their Reverse Vending Machine, which incorporates AI and IoT technology. Secured an MoU with a local municipality to install 30 machines in the community.
    • REBOON: Focused on establishing waste separation and recycling centers within community temples in Thailand, leveraging the temple’s central role within the Thai community as a spiritual as well as educational hub to raise awareness on environmental and waste issues.
      Key program achievements: Successfully established a waste separation and material recovery center within Wat Chonprathan temple as their first pilot, and currently working on a second setup at another temple. Diverted over 4.6 tons of waste, including 3.5 tons of PET, PP, and mixed plastic or plastic-related products over the course of nine months.

    Complex Problems Require Diverse Solutions

    Despite sharing the overarching goal of reducing plastic pollution and leakage in Thailand, as can be seen above, the cohort’s solutions were distinct and sought to tackle the issue from diverse angles and perspectives. This diversity emphasizes the need for solutions to be meticulously designed and purpose-built for the context within which they operate. To increase the chances of a solution’s successful implementation and integration into society, many factors must be taken into consideration prior to rollout, such as cultural norms, local community behavior/practices, socioeconomic needs, and government policies.

    The Value of Mentorship and Coaching

    Throughout each phase of the Thailand WMRA, the immense value that mentorship and coaching can add to the early stages of an entrepreneur’s journey became increasingly clear. A well-targeted mentorship can provide the cutting edge entrepreneurs need to refine their ideas so they align more closely with market and community needs. 

    Through the sharing of experiences, know-how and past successes and failures, mentorship and coaching can also help entrepreneurs demystify seemingly insurmountable challenges and navigate periods of “inspiration-block”. A potentially game-changing innovation, if not properly defined and refined, will most likely remain as an idea. This was evident from Phase 1, in which all five of the program’s idea-stage teams managed to validate their ideas through experiments and customer interviews and turn them into concrete, ready-to-launch business models.

    Furthermore, a coach embarking on the journey alongside entrepreneurs helps ensure that critical early-stage milestones are consistently met. One team from the Phase 2 cohort remarked that the program enabled them to develop significantly over a short period, while a recurring comment received from all Phase 2 startups was how the monthly coaching check-in sessions helped keep them engaged and accountable to their goals and KPIs.

     A New Era of Thai Entrepreneurship 

    The WMRA exemplifies the burgeoning nature of the country’s entrepreneurship landscape. Thai young adults are demonstrating an enterprising spirit and the courage to pursue ambitions close to their hearts. Some entrepreneurs whom we work with run their businesses despite holding full-time jobs, demonstrating impressive commitment and passion for their pursuits.

    Young Thai entrepreneurs also tend to embrace learning opportunities. Those within this cohort, along with others we have engaged with through other programs, have, more often than not, shown enthusiasm and willingness to learn from others, which usually helps to spur growth and maturity in their work.  

    A large majority of entrepreneurs also demonstrate awareness and sensitivity to recent work-related developments, such as global trends, national policies, and local community initiatives. Some ventures become involved in national working groups and connect with similar organizations and networks to ensure their work is relevant, up-to-date, and aligned with community needs.

    Towards a Shift in Mindset

    To drive the growth of innovation in Thailand, it is important for the sector to focus on shifting the entrepreneurial mindset to think collaboratively rather than competitively.  Our work has provided a platform for stakeholders and industry actors from across the ecosystem to connect and engage with one another, with many going on to establish joint efforts and some even developing strategic business partnerships. This is especially helpful for early stage entrepreneurs, where a timely opportunity and conversation with the right partner can potentially accelerate the growth of their work. 

    We also need the public and private sector to increase access to flexible financial mechanisms and provide suitable platforms and an enabling environment for startups to pilot and test their solutions.

    Our Work Continues: Upstream and Downstream

    Our commitment to strengthening the local plastic waste management, recycling, and innovation sector in Thailand remains unwavering. With a focus on supporting upstream solutions, we will continue to provide developmental support to startups, enabling them to pilot and expand their ideas while generating potential policy recommendations towards building a robust enabling environment. 

    Simultaneously, we are striving to enhance local networks and ecosystems to improve downstream management. By supporting digital recycling marketplaces, empowering informal waste workers, and implementing effective local community collection systems, we aim to foster the growth of inclusive recycling markets. 

    In line with the second phase of the Thailand government’s Plastic Waste Management Action Plan that emphasizes prevention and reduction at the source, we hope to drive positive change and contribute towards the nation’s commitment to improve the state of  plastic waste management and recycling and build a more sustainable and resilient future for the country.


    To gain insights into how Thailand’s Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policies impact plastic circularity, explore our latest report: