I founded one of the world’s only post-consumer plastic bag recycling companies in a country - Myanmar - which consistently ranks in the top 20 hardest countries in the world to conduct business. I am an impact-driven exited founder, Board Member, consultant, and advisor with deep expertise in circularity and plastics waste management technologies and systems.
My mission is to accelerate our global society towards a zero plastic waste future by reducing plastic production and consumption, building basic waste infrastructure for all communities, and scaling innovative solutions. Since returning to the US in 2021 after Myanmar's military coup, I have been working with industry leaders, startups, and VCs to solve our climate and plastic pollution crises with a focus on infrastructure technology solutions.
- Plastic Pollution Management
- Recycling / Collection Technologies & Systems
- Investing in infrastructure solutions, hardware technology, and lower-middle income countries’ waste management systems
- (Female) Entrepreneurship & Leadership
- Plastic Credits
- Social Entrepreneurship
- Impact Investing
More than 100 miles
I generally get paid for speaking but make exceptions
In 2013, I was living in Uganda when my friend called me from Myanmar and said, “Mimi, I think you can open your plastic recycling business here. You should come check it out.”
My first thought was, “Sure!” followed immediately by, “where exactly is Myanmar?”
I booked a flight. I didn’t know how I’d gather data in the country - let alone communicate with anyone - but I let my curiosity lead me, as it has for most of my life.
The night I arrived, I spotted my first lead: it was a garbage truck.
Yeah, I actually chased down a garbage truck. I had to know where the trash was going!
My arm-waving only caused laughter and confusion but luckily, a couple passing by helped translate and the next day, I went out to the country’s largest landfill. I was connected with the authorizing department, which I eventually negotiated a long-term supply agreement with, and later, to potential buyers that became future customers. I squeezed months of research into three days. And at the end of the trip, I took the plunge to move to Myanmar, despite not knowing anyone there...
I’m impact driven. There's something deeply ingrained in me that wants to make a positive difference in this world. Yet prior to founding my first company Myanmar Recycles, I had exhibited entrepreneurial inclinations - I wasn't even aware of concept until late 2009.
The idea of my business began taking hold after I moved to Uganda in 2011 when I was exposed to the limitations of foreign aid. I saw how aid can lack practicality, such as building a hospital but not a road to allow patients to easily access it. Further, organizations are rarely self-sustaining, instead dependent on donors and politicians. It became really important for me to harness the private sector to solve societal and environmental problems by setting out with an impact-driven mission that utilized a financially sustainable model.
I've always been conscientious of beach litter, and things started clicking after I learned about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Burning plastics produces toxic fumes. Dumped plastics pollute drinking water and threaten humans, sea life, and land animals. At the time, I was working in public health, and I saw how everything is interconnected. In other words, plastic pollution leads to environmental disasters - and is simultaneously a devastating global health problem.