Environment: A gift that belongs to everyone

Aushim Merchant is a 2015 Delegate Speaker in the Environment Plenary Session. Aushim founded the Mintra Foundation after returning from President Obama’s Young South East Asia Leaders Initiative in the USA this year. He is setting up initiatives that drive youth empowerment and improve education in Thailand. 

The One Young World Summit 2015 is a once in a life time opportunity as it brings together the most exemplary, passionate youth leaders from almost every country from across the world. I would like to express my sincerest gratitude towards my sponsors, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. It is an honour to be able to represent my country, Thailand, at this year’s summit.

It has long been a dream of mine, an ingrained desire, to represent my country and be given a voice on an issue that is close to my heart and of utmost importance in today’s context. The issue is of environmental sustainability and renewable energy. This issue has found its way into at least eight of the seventeen SDG’s (Sustainable Development Goals) issued by the United Nations. These SDG’s are a blueprint to catalyse human progress into an environment of peace and prosperity that is in its truest essence created by us, as one human family, committed and united for ourselves today, followed by the generations of tomorrow.

During a chance visit to a landfill site, I was shocked to see the effects of our consumer driven culture that looked like a huge mountain of waste. Even more shocking, was to see people, which particularly included widowed women & young kids, scavenging for what ever little item they could find to find their daily bread & butter. These rag-pickers are people that remain unseen, unheard & unknown. They work in conditions that are unthinkable & beneath human dignity. How can we turn a blind eye to such an injustice in the 21st century?

Through my organization, MK Aromatics Limited, we design, construct & operate facilities to address the problem of overflowing landfills and the socio-economic upliftment of the rag-pickers. Through our efforts over the past 5 years, we have converted over 6000 tons of plastic waste into 4 million litres of high quality crude oil, thereby approximately reducing 7000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to this, the organic waste that reaches our facility is converted to compost that is given to farmers to reduce their dependence on fertilisers. The key is that we utilise technology, and build state of the art robust process plants to produce crude oil from non-recyclable plastic waste. The social impact that we are able to create is worthy of mention as each facility that we set up provides direct employment to 50 families and indirect employment to over 150 families. Our solution solves two of society’s most pressing issues - energy scarcity & environment sustainability. It is of note that to date, we are the only company that has successful commercial operating plants.

I dream of seeing a world where taking care of the environment is not a choice but a moral obligation. I dream of a world where the first topic of discussion is the environment and not the last. I would like to reiterate that industrialisation is inevitable, it is our bread and butter, but I firmly believe that the environment is an extension of the efforts to create economic activity. The environment is not a liability, it is an asset that will yield exponential returns. Let me share with you an example. You buy a teak wood sampling for less than a dollar and plant it. After 30 years, the worth of the tree is over a million dollars. Can stock markets beat these returns?

As a promising youth leader, I find myself entrusted with the responsibility to lead by action and share through words. The immense trust and faith that people have placed in me, to have given me these numerous opportunities, I thank each and every one of them sincerely from my heart. The environment is much more than what we perceive it to be. It is because of the environment that we are where we are today, it is because of the environment we are able to create cherished memories, and it is because of this environment that is surrounding us, we are able to the make the dreams of a brighter future tomorrow a reality today. Let’s work together so that we can create a better world not just for future generations, but for ourselves.