Trash Hero Gaw Yan Gyi: Inspiring Long-Term Behavior Change in the Community
Pyae Pyae Phyo
Every day, we are generating trash, and the accumulation of abandoned trash has been detrimental to our environment. Imagine the abandoned trash piles you see on the street. Imagine every street has several trash piles, and imagine this scenario in every city, every country. It is clearly a global concern and as responsible citizens, we must work together to bring awareness to our communities and contribute to the Trash Hero movement.
“While solving the global waste problem may be complex, knowing what to do about the garbage that is currently littered on our beaches and in our communities is relatively simple: pick it up”, a response from a Trash Hero. There is a lot that every citizen can do to save the environment by reducing his or her own carbon footprint. As a responsible citizen, we cannot just solely focus on conducting random cleanups, we must come together and work as a team to motivate each other while we participate in various environmental initiatives. This way, we gain a profound understanding of the consequences of being careless about throwing trash as we bring communities together for one mission that benefits all.
Wondering what Trash Hero is all about? It is a global volunteer movement, led, supported, and governed by Trash Hero World. It is a non-profit organization founded in 2013 with a wide network of 171 chapters (and growing), from Thailand, Indonesia to Poland, Germany, Australia and the United States of America. According to Trash Hero World, the mission is to bring communities together to clean and reduce waste through action and awareness, education, inspiration, and sustainable projects. There are currently 15 active chapters under Trash Hero Myanmar, which facilitates program coordination and represents local voices, both on the national and global levels. Like its fellow organizations worldwide, Trash Hero Myanmar fosters sustainable, community-based projects where focus is on removing existing waste and reducing future waste by inspiring long-term behavior change.
Social responsibility is a duty every person has to perform as well as every business organization to maintain a balance between the ecosystems and the economy. Being a socially responsible business, M&AOSB has always placed corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the forefront of our values and community efforts. To expand its contributions towards environmental initiatives, M&AOSB CSR Team reached out to Trash Hero Myanmar and worked together to open a new chapter – Trash Hero Gaw Yan Gyi, which covers Nanttharpu Village Tract, Kyway Chaing Village Tract, and Nga Yoke Kaung Town. The chapter is formed with representatives from the community, M&AOSB CSR Team and Trash Hero Myanmar. Since its inception in December 2020, the chapter has been active in providing its own environmental awareness programs and workshops relating to sustainable waste management.
M&AOSB initiated the Trash Hero Gaw Yan Gyi chapter based on the results of the community needs assessment, the data provided by the local community with their concerns and needs. Community waste management was one of the major concerns raised by all three communities around the area where M&AOSB project operates. M&AOSB CSR Team was eager to conduct community-led waste management programs since the get-go, and since its establishment, M&AOSB CSR Team has been working together with Trash Hero Myanmar to establish innovative, effective and sustainable ways to address the environmental issues in the community. The program has been successful in empowering and educating the community to be a part of the nationwide movement to tackle the waste problem collectively and proactively. After all, “Anyone can be a Trash Hero! A Trash Hero wastes as little as possible, reuses as much as possible, and works to preserve and improve the spaces they are in, wherever they may be”, a motto set by the Trash Hero World.
There are two notable Trash Heroes from Gaw Yan Gyi chapter who have voluntarily decided to become the lead organizers. Ko Moe Wanna Hein and Ko Kyi Lwin Thaung are young and passionate residents of Nanttharpu Village Tract, who have been actively sharing their personal experiences about the community-led waste management initiatives. “Before all the Trash Hero cleanup activities began, we first discovered about this movement through Ko Saw Ba Lin Kyaw, who is the CSR Field Coordinator of M&AOSB. We feel lucky and blessed to be working together with a well-known organization like this and we are grateful to have M&AOSB’s help in keeping our community clean,” said Ko Moe Wanna Hein. He further described that the waste cleanup events are conducted on Sunday mornings, twice a month, where most of the community heroes consist of kids under the age of 16. Ko Moe Wanna Hein was surprised to find out that the participation of these kids isn’t only due to their own willingness to contribute to the community, it is also reinforced by their parents’ encouragement. Further, the adults have been proactively providing necessities for the cleanups along with breakfast for the heroes. “There were some efforts initiated in our community before, however, they weren’t successful like the Trash Hero events, which have gained so much attention and participation from the communities and I think it is because the program is led by a group of like-minded individuals. Not to say that the bright yellow Trash Hero T-shirts capture everyone’s attention of the program,” said Ko Moe Wanna Hein, who feels appreciative of the community collaboration.
Another community leader, Ko Kyi Lwin Thaung, has shared his personal reason for actively participating in the waste management program in Gaw Yan Gyi. He said, “Our village has no landfill site or municipal cleaning service. Historically, trash and other waste were burned or hidden out of sight. In early 2021, ‘trash bag program’ was first initiated to reduce plastic waste and pollution in our village.” Ko Kyi Lwin Thaung then pointed out that one of his friends from Ngapudaw Township introduced empty fertilizer bags to the waste management program where these bags are sewn using round bamboos and are hung at the front of every house in the village, making it convenient for everyone to properly throw their trash away. Ko Kyi Lwin Thaung is hopeful that the community will continue implementing this system so that it will eventually become part of their daily lifestyle. “I am very happy with the Trash Hero movement and our community’s participation in the cleanups. I will personally make sure to keep Gaw Yan Gyi neat and tidy so that it turns into one of the local attractive places for the tourists.”
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the Gaw Yan Gyi chapter’s aim to launch major cleanup events in the community. The chapter strictly adheres to WHO guidelines including those high-level protocols issued by the Trash Hero World. Small group cleanup events are now conducted in compliance with COVID-19 regulations while following proper health and safety measures. Trash Hero Gaw Yan Gyi kicked off its first small cleanup event at Zin Yaw Chung, Ah Lel Kone and Seik Kan Wards of Nanttharpu Village Tract on 20th December, 2020. As of 14th February 2021, the chapter has organized five cleanups and collected a total of 965 kg of trash (193 bags). It has also mobilized a total of 193 heroes including 70 adults and 123 kids, making it an eye-opening movement for the Nanttharpu community. When the COVID-19 outbreak ends, it is hoped the Gaw Yan Gyi chapter will be able to conduct an inclusive cleanup movement with the local residents, businesses, government agencies, schools, tourists and other stakeholders to take positive and proactive actions towards managing and minimizing waste.
One of the ways Trash Hero Myanmar bring awareness to the community is by handing out the famous yellow T-shirts to all the participants who voluntarily join the cleanups. In addition to the local community contributions, in Gaw Yan Gyi, M&AOSB CSR Team handed out protective masks, gloves, trash bags, and provided transportation for all cleanups, as well as food and drinking water for the volunteers. M&AOSB CSR Team also helped out with carrying out the loaded trash bags by offering other transportation services using trucks and boats. Collected trash were then disposed at the landfill site of Nga Yoke Kaung, a taxed town, where weekly municipal cleaning service and waste collection system are conducted. Currently, the Gaw Yan Gyi chapter is conducting bi-monthly cleanups around the public areas of Nanttharpu Village Tract while offering waste management awareness sessions to the young volunteers.
M&AOSB CSR Program is happy with its new success at Gaw Yan Gyi and looks forward to implementing a strategic initiative for an educational outreach program to raise awareness for waste minimization and influence attitude and behavior changes within the community. M&AOSB believes in the Trash Hero motto – “We Clean. We Educate. We Change.” and therefore, as a responsible company, we are dedicated to accelerating progress towards achieving a sustainable society where waste management and reduction are of primary focus within the community.