By Kritagya Regmi
April 27, 2023 – Ms. Mew Kamonchanok, an alumna of the Asian Institute of Technology’s Marine Plastic Abatement Program at the Department of Energy, Environment, and Climate Change, School of Environment, Resources, and Development. Ms. Mew is the co-founder of Wastic, and in this interview, she discusses her life as an entrepreneur and her vision for creating a safe and healthy environment. Here is her story.
- Please tell us about yourself, your professional background, and how it led you to co-found Wastic Thailand.
My name is Mew Kamonchanok, and I am a co-founder of Wastic Thailand. Prior to joining the Wastic team, my professional background was in economics and industry, where I conducted research and performed several analyses related to business aspects. Through my experiences, I have come to believe in the principle of sustainability as a key to successful business operations. I am convinced that any company can achieve financial sustainability while also conserving natural resources and supporting the community. I am inspired to make positive impacts, particularly through my own initiatives.
Global plastic pollution has been a significant environmental issue for many years, requiring cooperation among individuals across countries to find solutions. I want to be part of the solution and take action. Therefore, I pursued a Master’s degree in Marine Plastic Program (MPA) at AIT and graduated in 2021. The program covered various subjects, including plastic identification and large-scale recycling manufacturing. As a result, I gained a comprehensive understanding of waste management, which is crucial for developing ideas and executing business plans, considering technology and budget constraints.
2. When did your aptitude for business first become evident? Who or what inspired you to pursue this path?
After gaining a few years of business experience, I became inspired to make environmental impacts and decided to establish my own company. However, I initially lacked motivation and started looking for partners to help pursue my goals. It was during my time at AIT, I met the other three members of Wastic. Although we worked in different fields, we shared a common interest in the environment and sustainability. Around the same time, one of the Wastic co-founders, Bo Arisara, conducted research on glasses made from plastic bottle caps. She asked the other members if we were interested in turning the project into a business. Without hesitation, I decided to join the team because it was the right opportunity with the right partners. I firmly believe that we can successfully operate Wastic and make a positive impact on the environment.
3. Can you provide an overview of your enterprise?
Wastic is a business that employs the concept of plastic upcycling. Our vision is to offer customers alternative choices and increase accessibility to eco-friendly products. Our mission is to design and upcycle plastics into everyday essentials that are of high quality, practical, and affordable. Our very first product is sunglasses made from recycled PET plastic, and all our products and services are designed under the sustainability concept. We also work with communities by providing a donation drop-off point for second-hand glasses, which we collect and distribute to those in need. Additionally, we use online platforms to communicate and raise awareness about environmental issues. Our goal is to operate the business while minimizing our environmental impact and making a significant contribution to our planet.
4. What impact has the initiative had on your life? Could you share some achievements?
As someone who celebrates small successes, I have had the opportunity to meet several people who are stakeholders in Wastic – including customers and partners. We have come to realize that what is stated in theory may not always be feasible in practice due to certain limitations. However, we have engaged in discussions to improve and direct our business in a practical way. Although Wastic started small, we are steadily growing as we continue to build connections. One of our greatest achievements thus far has been the positive impact our products have had on a wide range of customers. Within the first month of launching our upcycled sunglasses, we distributed them to a diverse group of customers ranging from teenagers to the elderly. This success has proven that there are many people willing to support the market for eco-friendly products.
5. What is your vision for the future of Wastic? In what ways do you believe Wastic can continue to contribute to the fight against climate change and benefit society as a whole?
The problem of global plastic pollution is increasing because people often mismanage post-consumption goods. One solution to prevent plastic pollution is to recycle used plastics and incorporate them back into the system. At Wastic, we work closely with our partners to develop products that utilize recycled and eco-friendly materials. We plan to expand our product categories and encourage more people to choose eco-friendly products that help conserve resources. Our current focus is on exploring the local market, but we also have plans to export our products globally.
All Wastic products are made using recycled content rather than raw materials. For example, one pair of our RPET sunglasses is equivalent to two recycled plastic bottles, which means that a customer can help reduce approximately 14.5 gCO2 emissions by choosing our product over those made with raw materials. When we collectively take such actions, it can add up to a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, which helps slow down the problem of climate change. We believe that by sharing resources, the world as a whole can benefit, rather than any particular group.
6. How did AIT support your entrepreneurial journey? Were there any opportunities or resources provided by AIT that helped you advance your career or business endeavors?
I have had the pleasure of meeting many talented and inspiring individuals during my time at AIT. The professors and instructors have provided me with the necessary knowledge and skills to make informed decisions in business. In the initial stages of developing Wastic’s sunglasses, we were fortunate to receive guidance from the AIT Entrepreneurship Center. Their expertise in business model frameworks and product design feedback was invaluable to our success. Moreover, I credit much of Wastic’s success to the team members I met at AIT. We all share a passion for sustainability and the environment, and we have been able to work together effectively to achieve our goals. We are excited to continue growing our business and making a positive impact on the world.
7. Why did you choose to study at AIT?
To be precise, AIT’s MPA course was directly aligned with my interests and provided comprehensive, thorough, and practical content. Through the course, I had the opportunity to participate in various lab experiments and field trips, which helped expand my perspectives. AIT’s international student community added to the diverse culture and gave a unique learning experience. I am also grateful for the scholarship offered by the school to support my academic year.
8. What advice or recommendations do you have for students who are considering studying at AIT in Thailand?
I encourage anyone interested in studying at AIT to carefully review the course offerings to ensure they align with your interests. I recommend comparing courses and selecting the one that best suits your needs. If you require additional details regarding a program or accommodations, don’t hesitate to seek advice from AIT staff. They are incredibly helpful and knowledgeable, and they will happily answer any questions you may have. Additionally, I suggest taking a day tour around the AIT area. The campus is relatively large and offers plenty of shade, making it an ideal location for walking or cycling. It may even become your new favorite place to explore.
9. For those interested in joining your initiative, what message do you have for them? In what ways can individuals at various levels contribute to your cause?
To support our mission, we invite individuals to join us by choosing Wastic products and sharing our stories with others. Word-of-mouth is a powerful tool to spread awareness and create a positive impact. Additionally, we welcome business collaborations and appreciate any feedback to enhance our products and services. Please feel free to reach out to us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Wastic, our ultimate goal is to make a significant difference in the world. We encourage everyone to take action, starting with themselves by implementing the basic principles of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle (3Rs) in their daily lives. By working together, we can create a better world for ourselves and future generations.