#XynteoLife: Applying systems thinking to address waste management

19 Nov 2018

On the United Nation's World Toilet Day, to inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis, Xynteo's Rayson Ho shares his thoughts on how we can use systems thinking to understand and to solve the challenge of waste management. Ray, Programme Manager for the upcoming Xynteo Exchange/Norway, is passionate about waste. His passion developed during a backpacking trip around the world. "I spent nearly two years backpacking wherever I could get to. Everywhere I went, waste was a common problem. It was clear from then on what I wanted to spend my time on."

Ray in a rural village in Myanmar when he was implementing the MORE Village project – a year 1 Leadership Vanguard intervention.
Ray in a rural village in Myanmar when he was implementing the MORE Village project – a year 1 Leadership Vanguard intervention.

"I believe that ultimately, nothing is truly wasted if we can figure out what to do with it. For example, with enough food waste, it can be converted into a number of products: fertiliser, heat, fuel, power or even secondary building material." It was this realisation that led him to study Industrial Ecology at Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and then join Xynteo, aiming to bridge the gap between business and environmental concerns. Using systems thinking as a tool to address the waste issue Beyond waste, it's a useful tactic that helps us break down why and how big challenges like poverty, jobs displacement or migration continue to happen, and more importantly, identify the levers of change to shift systems into the right direction. This way of thinking is at the core of how we've designed the programme for this year's Xynteo Exchange/Norway, where we will tackle systems, co-create commercially-driven solutions, and explore how to truly combine forces across systems. Challenging cultural mindsets According to Ray, the biggest hurdle in solving the waste crisis isn't infrastructure, but culture. During his fieldwork in Rio de Janeiro, he was surprised to find that all restaurants buy 20% more food than they need every week, because customers expect good restaurants to have leftovers! "How can we fight irrational decision making with rational thinking? Systems thinking helps us see the bigger picture, become much more aware of our personal impacts and help us realise the simple everyday things we can do to literally shift systems," he sums up. Read more about the Xynteo Exchange/Norway 2018 here. While the Xynteo Exchange/Norway is an invitation-only event, the pre-Exchange event 'Xynteo Starter' is open to public and tickets can be booked online here.