Do you know?
73% of the beach litter worldwide is plastic.
Plastic is killing more than 1.1 million seabirds and animals every year.
We see plastic bottles, food wrappers, and polystyrene containers in the garbage and sometimes on picnic /public places, we feel helpless. But, Rikesh thought of creating a solution by creating an indigenous product for the serving of his motherland and thus society.
He aims to cut the amount of plastic waste going to Bhutan’s landfills by 30-40%
Rikesh Gurung from Bhutan is the founder of the first plastic recycling plant in Bhutan that is building green roads using plastic. They have completed roads around 100 Km and recycled 250 tons of plastic.
Here is a short video on Rikesh's journey so far
Here is the full interview with Rikesh
Please tell us your education and personal background?
My name is Rikesh Gurung and I am from a tiny Himalayan kingdom called Bhutan. I am 34 years old and did my high schooling in Bhutan. I graduated from Madras University, Chennai, India with a BBA degree in the year 2007. I am married and have a four-year-old son.
What inspired you to invent the Green road concept?
Entrepreneurship was new to me until 2013 till I went to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Week. I wanted to be a businessman and a social worker, but today I like to be called as a social entrepreneur. Since my college day, I wanted to start the Green road project in Bhutan. I am passionate about solving one of the biggest problems to the human race and that’s how it all started. I want to take plastic recycling to a whole new level.
I got inspired by an Indian scientist who invented the technique of using plastic waste in road construction when I was in university. Ever since then, I had decided that I would do the same in Bhutan. Starting a new concept in the country was challenging. I am not an engineer by qualification, I didn’t realize that I had to research for 5 years to master the technique and start this project. Different countries need different methods and processes to use waste plastic in road construction. Bhutan has rainfall and snowfall so the processes had to be changed to suit the altitude and climatic condition of my country. That’s how things seemed difficult initially. But indeed it has been an amazing journey and learning experience for me.
Tell us about the uniqueness of this concept and how will this benefit society?
We manage waste plastic from the source and from the landfill and make economical roads for the country. Plastic waste is collected, shredded, melted and used to build roads.
Bhutan’s Ministry of Works and Human Settlement spends about $4.2 million each year to fill potholes in Bhutan’s roads. Plastic takes 1000 years to decompose and this attribute of plastic will help us to build durable roads . This saves repairing and maintenance cost of roads.
In current world scenario, complete ban on usage of plastic is difficult thus the threat of disposal of plastic will not solve until the practical steps are initiated and we have taken those steps.
The “Local Shop” is our initiative, trying to boost plastic recycling in Bhutan. We try to do that by providing tools and knowledge to people in our country. Trying to give people solutions to fight plastic pollution
We are creating machines and funds for people with less financial means to start their own plastic recycling business. This will help fight plastic pollution in their own communities and will also create employment opportunities.
We are encouraging people and societies to give their waste plastics to us instead of dumping it in the garbage truck which will end up in the landfill.
Green Road is working for removing plastic waste from the landfills in Bhutan, building green and durable roads and reducing importing cost of bitumen for road construction.
What are some of the key challenges you faced in implementing this concept?
When one tries to bring change to the existing system people doubt your capabilities and beliefs.
The hardest thing is having people say no to you constantly. Prospective customers, financiers, friends, family members all get skeptical about your project and dream. A hardest job as an entrepreneur is not to lose business vision and beliefs and proving doubters wrong. Once you succeed in your primary goal, you can take your vision to another level.
What did you learn from those challenges?
Success doesn’t come from merely chasing a business idea for a financial reason, but by driving the idea passionately. The success of a project depends on the mastery and extensive research over the subject. While the task of finding your entrepreneurial calling can be demanding, you will have to follow your gut instincts and work passionately.
What do you like the most in your project?
The feeling of me making the difference in other’s lives and serving my motherland gives me the inspiration to fight the challenges in our mission.
What is your guidance to the audience? How can society contribute to this concept?
Dreams are essentials for finding your inner whistle. If you chase your dreams with passion then you reach your goals. Your persistence in your work scraps all doubts, skepticism, and opposition of society and then they start supporting you.
Instead of asking your kids to follow the beaten paths for their careers, ask them what problem they want to solve, ask them which idea they would like to pursue to change the world for the better!
Start solving the plastic waste pollution problem within your house or community by minimizing the plastic usage. Please support Corporations/NGOs/Government fighting the plastic waste problem.
What kind of long term vision are you looking from this project?
I have great plans for this project. I am targeting to employ around 500 people in the next 2 years
I will make sure all the waste plastics are upcycled and reduce the dependence on fossil fuel and import of plastic products in the country.
This article is supported by
Punarvash Venkat Mitta
7th Grade Student,
Basis School, Scottsdale, Phoenix, Arizona, USA