LØRN case C0223 -

Okka Phyo Maung

CFO and co-founde


Stop the sea litter at the source

In this episode of #LØRN, Silvija talks to Recyglo CFO Okka Phyo Maung about deepsea technology. RecyGlo won the CCI France Young Entrepreneurs Awards 2019 in the Positive Impact category. Okka tells us about how AI and blockchain can increase recycling. Silvija and Okka also discuss how the technology ocean biomimetics can solve several of the problems in the ocean through minimal environmental impact.
LØRN case C0223 -

Okka Phyo Maung

CFO and co-founde


Stop the sea litter at the source

In this episode of #LØRN, Silvija talks to Recyglo CFO Okka Phyo Maung about deepsea technology. RecyGlo won the CCI France Young Entrepreneurs Awards 2019 in the Positive Impact category. Okka tells us about how AI and blockchain can increase recycling. Silvija and Okka also discuss how the technology ocean biomimetics can solve several of the problems in the ocean through minimal environmental impact.

17 min

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Velkommen til Lørn Tech- en læringsdugnad om teknologi og samfunn med Silvija Seres og venner.

SS: Hello, and welcome to Lorn. My name is Silvija Seres and the topic today is sea technology, marine technology, and my guest is Okka Phyo Maung. The CMO from RecyGlo, a company that helps develop innovative waves management solutions. Based in Asia-Pacific, but now increasingly in Norway, welcome.

OM: Hi. Pleasure to meet you.

SS: It is really a pleasure to have you here, Okka, to the very cold Norway, when you could be in sunny Singapore or Myanmar. What brings you to Norway?

OM: All the inspirations. That is a good thing to start with. I used to study here for a little bit and went back and decided to start with green business. Particularly in waste management to stop all the waste and put the source in the scale. Right now the waste management employment in Asia is quite problematic. In Asia we produce 80-90% of the waste that are going to the oceans, so it is better to solve the source, so that is the reason I decided to start a company and now come back to Norway, to get inspiration again.

SS: You are also a part of the Katapult Ocean Accelerator.

OM: Correct

SS: What does that mean?

OM: Katapult Ocean Accelerator is the accelerator that also gives you the founding, the technology and work that connects you with the eco system here in Norway, so we receive the founding from the Katapult and we also receive a lot of membership connections so we can skill this setup, not only in Asia-Pacific, but also in the more Western Europe, North America as well. They help us a lot.

SS: Help us understand. The problem of waste management, you said 80-90% is produced in Asia Pacific. Is it plastic bags or what does this waste contain of?

OM: A lot of plastic. Almost all the waste that is produced in Asia-Pacific is carried out by the seven or eight rivers to the oceans, so that creates the pacific accurate pact and that creates a massive problem as well. So if you are talking about plastic bags, there are also plastic cans, there are also electronic waste and glass and cans that are not properly recycled, so there is a lot of waste.

SS: So a part of this is being able to help people do something proper with their waste before they throw it in the river that takes it to the ocean and then a part of the problem or this solution is to catch this waste at the point where rivers enter oceans, or what do you think?

OM: I think what you have mentioned is exactly right. We are stopping the problem at the source. If you look at the Asia Pacific government, they try to solve the problem, but the public sector is not officiant at all so that is why the private sector has to come in and solve the problem. So as a private sector we are very lean. So we are quick with seing the problem and defining the problem, and we solve the problem with a different technique and innovation tools. So that is what we are doing exactly in Asia-Pacific.

SS: Can you give me a couple of examples?

OM: Well, we use the latest technology, we use AI, we use block chain. We use AI for image processing, to recognise when you take a picture and that picture will tell you exactly how much waste it is, how much is plastic, what is the weight of the cans. All this information will help us to really understand how we can make a better policy and the right policy to stop the waste. So for example our BTB model is a platform, we don’t own any recycling factory, we don’t own any fleet, but we connect with our clients and fleet team and also recycling factory through the platform. So clients want to recycle, so they use our platform and fleetingly they receive a notification that they need to pick up, and they pick it up the waste that our clients site, they will deliver it to the recycle factory, and the recycle factory will recycle their waste. By this way there will be no waste going to the land field dumpsite, so pretty much everything is being recycled.

SS: I think it’s brilliant, because in the way you measure the problem and measure the improvement in order to make it easy for people to start acting.

OM: Yes, that’s what we do. We are not just solving the BTB, but we are also solving the BTC as well. So our app is really an uber for recycling. Businesses are happy to pay, but the households don’t want to pay. In Asia-Pacific there are a lot of low-income families, so what we try to do is to localise the solution. So the family can take a picture of the waste and that notification will go to the informal sector in Asia community, so someone from that community will come and buy the waste from you, so you even get paid for your plastic bottles. So you are instantly allowed to collect the waste in a large amount , and the middleman, the shop, they sell it to the recycle factory for a lot higher margins. So they are also sentaficed. The factory, they are also sentaficed, the quality or the weight, the source, they are higher quality but they are not collecting waste from the dumpsite they are collecting waste directly from the household. In this way each player in the supplement has power and is satisfied knowing there will be no more waste.

SS: So this is for land based waste and then you have the floating waste, the deep sea waste, are there solutions to take that as well?

OM: Well, the ocean waste mostly comes from the land. So when the monsoon seasons come, a lot of rain will wash down the waste to the oceans. So we think it is quite important to attack the problem at the source. So we tackle the source of the waste, which is the land, the business and the household. So we believe that the pacific garbage pack can be reduced in half if we really tackle the waste, in a few years in Asia-Pacific.

SS: And I think there is also an education aspect here. I was working in a country in the Middle-East and we had a picnic, we were in a place where people just threw away plastic waste. I said that we can’t do this pristine, it's a beautiful place, it's a biblical landscape, almost. And they were saying that the first rain will wash it off and it will disappear. But of course it doesn’t disappear. So we need to help people understand where it goes. Are we able to communicate these stories?

OM: That is a beautiful question. Our BTB part, we also have an education app, so basically in Asia-Pacific the awareness of waste is not high enough. So what we do is to start with education. Education is honestly quite expensive, you have to spend a lot of human resources, financial resources to do that, but we stick to it anyway and we believe it is quite important to start with education and then we follow through the procedure. In our programme, when the clients has subscribed to our programme, we start with the training. So we send one trainer to tell them about waste management, waste awareness. By doing that, 100 people in the organisation get that awareness and they will separate well, so we can recycle in a more easy way.

SS: One of the things I liked that you wrote to me was that very often people believe that when we are doing marine tech it will harm nature. And I have had a few conversations with people in marine tech lately, and my experience is that most of them actually work on clean up. So why do people worry that marine tech is only about fishing more fish and making faster boats?

OM: Well, for people, change is always difficult. We had the industrial revolution, we had steam engines, people happened to be protesting them at that time a lot. Change is difficult to understand and to grab the sense of it. So what people worry about is what we do in marine tech, that we extract more resources from the oceans, but what people don’t see is that when we systematise , that the whole technology, the whole supply changes. We are not extracting the resources anymore, we are actually leveraging the technology that we have to make sustainable instructions. So basically, if we fish for 10.000 tons of fish a year. If we can have a deep sea technology, that can have a fish farm in the ocean, we don’t need to fish that fish anymore, we can just use the fish farm nearby oceans that we can actually provide the food for human resources. So if you look at that type of technology, you are not extracting the natural resources in the ocean, you are actually sustaining them by systematising the whole eco system.

SS: So eco system thinking is what we need to help people understand here?

OM: Exactly.

SS: You also mentioned a very fascinating concept to me. Ocean biomimicry. What do you think about that?

OM: We have so much to learn from the oceans. You have fish, octopus, so many millions of creatures that we haven’t really studied, yet. But if you really understand how they see, how they think, how they live their life, you can bring that knowledge back to the land, the society, then you can contribute it for a greater purpose. For example, there is a robot fish, it's exactly like a fish and goes around fish, and studies about the creators, so that fish has a capacity to see, so for the human site we can understand how the fish go around how they migrating. The group behaviour. So this is just one example, but there are so many things you can understand. If you study the octopus, their fluid, their mating, you can use it in human physiology as well, how do we sustain our human body, what is the secret source for them. You can study so much from the ocean and you can contribute back to society.

I have to tell you about one of my favourite writers, he is called Jaron Lanier, and he is one of the fathers of virtual reality. He is also a great musician. He is also a wacky nerd. But he is also a neuroscientist. And he is obsessed with octopus and how they use their brain in ways different from ours that can help us understand our brains better. It is really interesting.

OM: Amazing. They give you opinions to see life in a very different way. That's how we learn, and that’s how we grow.

SS: Because you are pointing at a really important part of our nature. Of course our brain is functional for our body and our environment, so we understand more about us and our brain when

we contrast our brain and environment and our body with beings that live in completely different conditions.

OM: Totally. We haven’t really explored the whole ocean, yet. We have so much to learn from the oceans then what we learn in knowledge. I'm sure that now our lives expand to 75, that we can expand it to 120, 130, we can live very long, we can be more flexible, we can have more products that are sustainable, that are useful for human society. That's what we are looking for.

SS: Learn from the ocean. There are more reasons to be in Norway than just Katapult Ocean, you have some old times heroes here. Why do you think it is cool collaborating with Norway now?

OM: Norway is a very special case, when you look at Scandinavia you have Finland, Sweden, Denmark, but Norway is driven by the marine industry. You have billionaires and millionaires, the well is so much relied on fishing, shipping, all those industries. Look at Sweden and Denmark, that’s not the case. The eco system is here already and it is here to support you. If you have the same language with your investors and your business partners they understand you better. That is what we are looking for, because we are in a green business, we are here to work with marine industry, and Norwegian people have already been in the marine industry for a very long time, that is how we can connect better, we speak the same language. “Hey, let's do this”, and they will understand. You have to have connections, the same language connections, that will help us to reach the next level.

SS: Same love for the ocean.

OM: Yes

SS: I asked you where do you go to learn and be inspired? You mentioned NTNU, our technical university. What kind of research do they do that is relevant to you?

OM: They are one of the best marine universities in the world. If you look at the ranking of that global marine research they will come as a top one or two. They do research on understanding the marine industry , human and ocean interactions, how we can neutrally benefit as a human society also as well as for the oceans. So we can learn so much from them. What I see is the opportunities of this, the tech transfer, having a Norwegian company and then you can get the technology, you can work with the university, and you can explore in the fields and you can commercialise the idea. That is actually sustainable for a long time. So if you are looking for a solution that has a bigger impact, you need to work with them. That is what I would recommend.

SS: Do you have a quote that you could leave to our customers as a little gift?

OM: Yeah, I used to study in Oslo, University of Oslo, so I love salmon, cause we got salmon almost every day. So I guess my quote is “If you like salmon, stay in Norway”. Stay close to Norway.

SS: My kids do, so we are stuck I think. What should people remember from our conversation? If there is one overarching thing, what would you like it to be?

OM: Be positive. I think we have so much to learn from the ocean, the positive attitude, bring it here to Scandinavia. You interact with the ocean, you interact with society. That positive thing, it might not happen right now, but in 10 years, in 50 years, there will be a real change that can stimulate the world. Interact with the ocean in a positive way.

SS: The biggest blue ocean of our time. I think that is a beautiful way to end. Okka Phyo Maung fromMyanmar, and then Singapore, and then from Recyglo, thank you so much for coming here and making us more connected with the ocean.

OM: No problem, it is my pleasure

SS: Thank you for listening

Du har lyttet til en podcast fra lørn.tech, en lærings-dugnad om teknologi og samfunn. Følg oss i sosiale medier og på våre nettsider lørn.tech.

What are you doing at work?

I am doing strategic financing and fundraising, as well as Chief Marketing Officer for the company brand and reaching out to more clients.

What are the most important concepts in marine technology?

Making it more efficient and solving the problem of current problems in the marine-related industry.

Why is it exciting?

Recyglo’s tech is now focused on land, but the impact is for the ocean. We stopped the waste at the source in scale.

What do you think are the most interesting controversies?

The most interesting controversy is that people believe that when we do marine tech it will harm the nature, but this is not the case. We are here to help the marine-related companies to be able to thrive and embrace the value of sustainability.

Your own favourite projects in marine technology?

Profitable ocean clean-up on a large scale, not only the floating waste, but also the waste that are deep down in the ocean.

Your other favourite examples of marine technology internationally and nationally?

Ocean Biomimicry, this is the idea that can solve many problems in the ocean with a minimal impact on the environment.

What do we do particularly well in Norway of this?

In Norway, the presence of marine-related industry is significant. If you look at other Nordic countries, Norway stands out from the rest in the maritime industry. Norway should invite more talents to do marine tech.

A favourite future quote?

If you want to eat salmon, stay close to Norway.

Most important takeaway from our conversation?

If you want to do marine tech and get the first advantages of upcoming cool ocean developments, Norway is right place to be. Marine tech is the next big thing.

Okka Phyo Maung
CFO and co-founde
CASE ID: C0223
DATE : 190128
DURATION : 17 min
NTNU research articles
HavtechLønnsom havrengjøring Deepsea-teknologi
"If you want to do marine tech and get the first advantages of upcoming cool ocean developments, Norway is right place to be. Marine tech is the next big thing."
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