Also one of the winners of SAARC Women Entrepreneur of the Year 2018
She creates mesmerizing products like bags, containers and dust-bins from waste.
Chogyal Lhamo, 42, from Nubi Gewog in Trongsa is an entrepreneur who collects waste to turn it into useful items for sale.
A mother of three and based in Bumthang, she started out as a scrap dealer in 2008 and formally started being a waste entrepreneur from 2014.
Chogyal Lhamo resigned from corporate service in 2001. “After my husband expired I left my job thinking the salary will not be enough for survival. I wanted to start a business and came back to my home-town,” said Chogyal Lhamo.
In the beginning she planned to start a conventional business. But this required a huge start-up cost and involved massive risk. So, she started small, without any investments.
“That’s when I came up with the idea that would benefit both the society and our environment,” she said.
She mentioned that this kind of undertakings get ample support from the government that is a plus point in terms of risk minimization and easy business promotion.
She is the only entrepreneur in Bumthang collecting waste. Her firm is known as Green Bhutan Waste Management.
Chogyal Lhamo has a pick-up truck to collect the waste which she drives herself and goes from door to door to collect waste. She starts from 8.30am and works till 9pm some times.
She usually collects trash from gewogs, chiwogs, schools, institutions, hospitals, corporations and all other kinds of organizations in Bumthang.
In a day she can collect on average more than one ton of trash. The trash consists of pet bottles, glass bottles, cardboards, e-waste, plastics and metal.
Wastes such as tins and metals are crushed supplied to a major scrap dealer in Phuentsholing. Plastics and tetra-pack waste are recycled into new products like bags, containers and dustbins which she sells.
She also produces laptop bags, pen stands and hand bags from the waste.
Chogyal Lhamo said that currently the business is not operating in its full potential due to less manpower, inadequate required machines, and lack of professional advocacy and limited financial support. “My business doesn’t enjoy a massive cash flow but it does operate sustainably after all expenses it incurs.”
Currently, she has three employees. However, in the beginning she had 15 employees.
She said people resigned because societal stigma that looks down on waste collectors.
Chogyal Lhamo also won the SAARC women entrepreneur of the year 2018 award which was held at Colombo in Sri Lanka on March 2 this year.
She won the award alongside seven other women entrepreneurs nominated from each South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
“I believe that women are as capable as men. I always have an urge to walk shoulder to shoulder with men in the society,” she said.
She mentioned that despite being looked down in the society for being a woman and made fun of for doing such messy job, she is happy.
“I wake up confidently and work hard with determination every single day to get the job done. I think my will-power and actions are finally paying off,” she said.
Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu