ReForm centers continue to create livelihoods and tackle plastic pollution in tourism destinations in Vietnam and Myanmar during COVID-19 recovery
Transforming Vision Into Action - On the Ground
16 December 2020
The experience of a tourist will always have a negative undertone if the destinations and the access routes to the destinations are heavily scattered with trash. On the contrary, if a visitor witnesses a system that contributes to a clean environment and community engagement, where waste collectors earn a fair income and are trained to be waste entrepreneurs and create new products from the raw material many people call ‘waste’, the experience will be well remembered.
ReForm centers collect and transform plastic waste into new tradable products such as furniture for hotels, restaurants, etc. The centers are equipped with efficient low-cost machinery, collection and processing equipment. Such equipment is integrated in existing collection centers or into municipal sites or landfills and transforms them into small production facilities which can process both high value plastics (e.g. plastic containers) but also low-grade plastic that otherwise will not be collected or reutilized (e.g. plastic bags, multi-layer packaging, styrofoam etc.). At ReForm centers, waste collectors receive a fair income for all types of waste collected, including plastic waste that was previously worthless to collect and therefore left in the environment. ReForm also hires informal workers and trains them to be waste entrepreneurs and create new products from plastic waste.
ReForm is now operating as a social franchise with three ReForm centers currently in operation. The lead facility in Hoi An (Vietnam), is the only self-operated center. Two additional facilities in Inle Lake and Yangon (Myanmar) are operated by local organizations and supported by ReForm Central staff. Each facility creates livelihoods for 5-8 staff and supports participating collectors through purchase of otherwise valueless waste. ReForm Central develops products and material compositions and shares all findings and blueprints with its partners. ReForm also helps with the distribution of the products, such as hotel lockers, restaurants tables, display racks, planter boxes, tables, etc.
Since the establishment of the first ReForm center in Vietnam created by Evergreen Labs, a social enterprise in Vietnam, with support from EXO Travel and its non profit arm EXO Foundation, the three operating ReForm centers have saved 18,000 Kg of plastic from becoming waste, which is the equivalent of approximately 2.5 million pieces of plastic waste (bags, wrappers, bottles, food boxes). In January 2020, SylTours, a French Tour-Operator, supported the enhancement of the center in Hoi An’s municipal waste facilities. ReForm currently has over 30 enquiries for additional facilities throughout Vietnam and from Myanmar, Thailand and Laos with several links to the tourism industry. ReForm is now supporting 5 committed entrepreneurs with the permitting process and seeks funding for the establishment of the facilities.
ReForm centers have proven a resilient model as they have continued operating during COVID-19. They represent a highly replicable model that can operate as a decentralized system for waste processing in tourism destinations, including rural and remote areas. One of the key factors for success has been the local ownership of the centers to create a long-lasting effect. The “social franchise system” created by Evergreen Labs enables each ReForm center to be locally owned and managed, while still operating within the ReForm group to ensure centralised fundraising support, quality control, environmental protection and central product development and distribution.
This article for Transforming One Planet Vision into Action has been brought to you by EXO Foundation, the Foundation of EXO Travel, a Destination Management Company based in Asia. Sustainability is deeply rooted in the ethos of EXO Travel, it is a certified company fully committed to developing, operating, and marketing tourism in a sustainable manner and to leveraging the power of tourism for good. With its EXO Foundation, it supports more than 60 grassroots organizations per year in Asia helping to conserve our natural resources and protect the planet through support to reforestation, greener energy, plastic reduction initiatives and empowering the most vulnerables ones especially women and children. Visit EXO Foundation website