Thong – a trailblazer in the world of recycled waste

Green cities
Thong is a trailblazer in the world of recycled waste. With a keen eye for valuable discarded items, she buys and sells steel, aluminum, and plastic bottles to earn a living for herself and her six-member family who live the village of Nongduang Thong. Her daughters work as shop assistants, her son is an air condition mechanic, and her son-in-law joins her in the business by buying waste.

Every day, Thong rises early and tries to be on the road by 10:00 am to buy recycled waste from households and other sources in the Chanthabuly and Sikhottabong districts. She then sells them at a nearby shop in Khualuang village. However, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted her routine, leaving her struggling to earn money and provide for her family.

Thong also faces many other obstacles such as stiff competition from sellers in neighboring countries, who offer factory prices, and injury while sorting items from bins. Despite the challenges, she is determined to succeed and is always looking for ways to improve.

Thong understands the vulnerabilities of her job, so she attended workplace safety and first aid training organized by Swisscontact’s Waste to Value project and found the sessions on wound care to be particularly useful for her livelihood.

Thong is not just a waste picker, but a leader and an inspiration in her community. She is dedicated to promoting for a safer working environment for all waste pickers.

With her unwavering spirit and commitment to a brighter future, Thong is a shining example of what can be achieved when we rise to meet life's challenges. 

"The training has given me the confidence to act quickly and effectively if an injury were to occur."
-  Thong

This project is financed by the City of Zurich and Däster-Schild Foundation, among other donors. It is part of the Swisscontact Development Programme, which is co-financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA.

Green cities
Waste to Value
Swisscontact's Waste to Value project strengthens the environmental performance in service sector SMEs (hotels, restaurants, cafés and mini-marts) by improving their waste management practices and access to green products. The project further strengthens business operations and improves workplace safety for informal waste pickers increasing their income and quality of livelihood. This is complemented with awareness raising among service sector SMEs and the wider population along with encouraging public-private consultation meetings in the Lao PDR in line with national and municipal government strategies.