Youth in Bhutan: From Waste to Employment

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Bhutan turns an environmental challenge into employment opportunity for a young population desperate for re-entering the job market. An eco-friendly initiative offers training and employment to young people in drug rehabilitation centers and contributes to reducing the environmental impact of 100 tonnes of paper waste a year. The solution promotes the use of locally produced egg trays from recycled materials to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and reliance on imported carbon intense trays transported from other countries. It also contributes to the economic and social reintegration of the youth. Neighboring countries are looking how they can replicate and scale up the success of Bhutan’s initiative.

Good Health and Well-Being , Decent Work and Economic Growth , Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure , Reduced Inequalities , Sustainable Cities and Communities , Responsible Consumption and Production , Climate Action , Life on Land , Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions , Partnerships for the Goals , Prevent and treat substance abuse , Promote job-creation, entrepreneurial policies , Increase small-scale industrial enterprise access to financial services , Empower, promote the inclusion of all , Build developing country capacity on sustainable consumption, production , Reduce waste generation through reduction, recycling, reuse

Landlocked between giants India and China, tiny Bhutan is one of the most intriguing countries in the world. For foreigners Bhutan seems like a fairytale, mystical kingdom unchanged by and isolated from the modern world. But this Himalayan land where mystical Buddhism thrives and that famously measures Gross National Happiness instead of GDP is experiencing a high rate of urban population growth with an impact on its pristine environment. Bhutan takes conservation seriously, plastic bags are banned, 65% of the land is forested and large swathes are protected, tourism is controlled. Yet, the kingdom’s capital Thimphu alone produces 50 tones of waste every day. A large young population, with 60% under 25 years old, is experiencing another problem: unemployment. The rate of unemployment among youth is four times higher than the average national unemployment rate. Within the young, there is a minority group that faces additional challenges. They have joined rehabilitation centers for drug abuse, but will face mistrust and discrimination when it’s time to return to the job market. Furthermore, the country imports carbon intense egg trays transported from other countries and producing CO2 emissions.

An eco-friendly initiative is trying to solve both problems at the same time. It trains young people in rehabilitation centers and employs them in an initiative that is helping to recycle 100 tonnes of waste paper a year, while also reducing the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the transport of imported egg trays.

In a recycling facility the youth, now employed, transforms waste paper into egg trays. They operate specialized molding machinery that can recycle 250kg of paper and cardboard and produce up to 5,000 egg trays a day.  

This employment opportunity helps in two ways. It builds confidence in this youth crowd to overcome addiction. It also offers a chance to gain the skills and break the barriers that prevented them from reentering the job market.   

Bhutan Youth Development Fund established the eco-friendly initiative in collaboration with Greener Way, the largest waste management company in the kingdom.

UNDP provided the start-up fund. More funds came from co-financing mechanisms. The government provided the land for the recycling facility through a subsidized lease.

Today, Rehab centers like Nazhoen Pelri Drug Rehabilitation Center take care of the employment arrangements. Whilst the local retailer Karma One Stop Shop buys the egg trays wholesale and sell them to shops and farmers.

The eco-friendly initiative is the country’s first and only waste paper recycling facility. It is bringing positive results for the environment and youth employment.

The success of the initiative is crossing borders. Organizations in Nepal and Bangladesh have already shown interested in scaling up and replicating the initiative.

Bhutan

UNDP GEF-Small Grants Programmee , UNDP Bhutan , Goodwill Community Foundation, USA

Bhutan Youth Development Fund

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