Alternative waste solutions in Yangon

 

 Being at Yangon of Myanmar, we focused on the large amount of plastic that is used and the way and place that this amount terminates at such a big urban area. According to the locals, the majority of the plastic ends up to the city’s river and various rubbish dubs. The epidemic use of the plastic has been embedded on the Burmese everyday life, the last ten years.
  

 Meeting Wendy Neampui, the manager of Chu Chu enterprise ( Kyut- Kyut means soft plastic) we had the chance to get to know the situation long before the plague of the plastic packaging and bags . Chu Chu is a social enterprise, located in Dalah of Yangon, when the trash is being reformed and reused in order to turn into handicraft.

 

Manager of organization Chuchu,  Wendy Neampui

 

 

tobacco cases

Handmade tobacco cases or wallet made of bike's tube

Handmade tobacco case

As stated by Wendy, when she was young, leaf was the most common material to wrap food or even essentials. The leaves that were used as packaging used to find their way back to nature, where they belong, causing no impact to the environment. The material that replaced the leaves was paper. Paper’s impact cannot be seen as eco-friendly but still is preferable than plastic’s. Over the past few years, an informal update is taking place so the people know about the practical of recycling and reusing the materials they already possess. Unfortunately, schools lack any environmental subject or briefing about the maintenance of ecosystem. The fact that got our attention was the non-existent state support.

 

Handmade bags made of umbrella's textiles

 

chuchu bags

Handmade bags made of  coffee beans sacks and coffee packages


  Burmese are totally unaware of the plastic’s impact on the environment, which makes it easier for them to use it excessively. In a daily basis, you come across plastic bags, disposable straws, cutlery etc. Dalah’s residents seem positively affiliated with ChuChu’s initiative, but they are not able to adopt that point of view yet. Due to the adult’s awkwardness of being acculturated into that, Chu Chu focuses on the youth’s training.

 

Handmade pencil case made of bike's tube

 

chuchu bottle cases

 Bottle cases made of plastic, creating fancy vases


  The organization was founded with the economic aid of the Italian NGO Cesvi and since 2013 operates autonomously.  Chu Chu’s employed people are 30, in that case we are talking about 8 families. Every one of them gets paid by the hour and is aware of the time that each and every item is going to need in order to be done, says Wendy. Afterwards, the items pass through the quality review process , pricing , distribution and sale.

  

The place where is housed the organization, the shop and the lab of Chuchu  (photo: Alexandros Zilos)
   

Wendy teaches the new generations how to use the sewing machine and hiring new people contributes to the society by offering a permanent job to them, such as collecting plastic which is all over the roads, markets and landfills. The recyclable rubbish has been decreased in the area because Chu Chu pays for its collection.
  Materials that are used are :

Plastic films (Ldpe-low density polyethylene aka bags and covers)

·         Packaging of coffee, chips etc.

·         Umbrellas’ textile

·         Tubes (of cars, tracks, motorcycles and bicycles)

·         Old fabrics

·         Newspapers

chuchu worker 

Handicrafts woman at work

 As long as the country evolves with a fast pace and trying to get over the regime that used to govern, people are willing to do everything in the name of money and evolution, which means that sacrifices will be done without a second thought.

 

Belts made of bike's tyres

In Chuchu they informed us about a greek visual artist, who had participated in the manufacturing process. So we got in touch with Liana Markaki , in order to learn about the way Chuchu works and produces so many handicrafts.
Interview below:

K.Z: How did you end up in Chuchu?
L.M: After a long time of searching about how I could voluntarily work In Myanmar, I ended up in Chuchu. Actually, it was very difficult for me, so the research took me a long time till I found something.  Finally, I found it through an expat media community, which was suggested to me by a friend of mine who had adopted a kid from Cambodia, who shes’ yoga master had a burmese niece in London. I’m writing down all those details, because I really want to show you how difficult it was for me to find a voluntary work in Myanmar, besides those in monasteries.

K.Z: Did you work voluntarily there?
L.M: Of course it was.

K.Z.: Which parts of production did you have to take care of?
L.M: Firstly, I helped them out to evolve the already designed patterns and show them the way to create new ones. And then we had to create patterns for new products. After that, we designed the logo, a catalogue and the internet page, which was under my administration for as long as I was there.

K.Z.: How did you find the interaction and collaboration with the locals?
L.M.: Our relationship was great. The people are very willing to help and really sweet. As you may have noticed, they have their own perception of time. Additionally,  the hot weather in combination with the electricity was against the rapidity, which was really a minor subject. The way they cared about me was touching.

 

chuchu elephant

elephant made of coffee's packages

 

Pencil case made of recycling plastic and bike's tube wallets


K.Z.: Do you think that a similar idea would flourish in Greece?
L.M.: Greece is a complicated subject. A Burmese virtue is people’s ” relationship” with the time. In Greece time means money, but in Myanmar, it is not like that. There, the people hare engaged with manual labour and they work all day long at their own pace. Plus, they are not afraid of the dirt (considering that they wash twice or even four times the collected, dirty, plastic objects). Moreover, the happiness and enthusiasm they show about anything new, in combination with the non-competitive encouragement they give to other people in order to teach them, are some characteristics, that cannot be found in Greece.  That would be the difficult part in Greece. Nevertheless, in proportion to the refugees and immigrants that live in Greece, it could be a great idea. Specifically, a collaboration between them and greek designers would be really nice! I would like to let you know that for years, I’ve been working as a creative director in advertising agencies. I have studied graphics and I am an artist. That can explain why I was useful to those sectors. Furthermore, after being involved with the refugees for the last 3 years, I do know the difficulties they face in order to integrate into our community, as well as the obstacles on their way to start something new that will give them the joy of being creative once again. All those things, make me believe that a project like that would be a really nice idea. If you would like to ask me anything else, feel free. For now, I could tell that I will be back in Myanmar soon...

 

chuchu doorstops

Door stop made of caoutchouc

I would like to thank especially Liana Markaki , who dedicated her time, to  make us a more extensive description of this organization.

More info for Chuchu organization:

https://www.facebook.com/pg/ChuChuYangon/about/?ref=page_internal

 

 

Written & photos by Konstantinos Zilos

Redaction and translation : Margarita Katsiveli

 

 

                                

          
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