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Meet the team

Michael Lee, Sales Manager at TOMRA Sorting, about the waste management and recycling industry of South East Asia and its potential.

21 January 2016

Michael Lee

Q: Michael, you have now been with TOMRA Sorting for 6 months as Sales Manager Recycling for South East Asia. So, what are your first impressions?

ML: Innovation, Passion and Responsibility: these were my initial impressions of TOMRA colleagues when I first met them in Asia and Europe. Those influences came through strongly during meetings and training sessions. I think it's these core values which have made me feel particularly welcome – there's a great sense of team spirit at TOMRA. 

Q: How would you describe the waste management and recycling industry in South East Asia?

ML: The current waste management and recycling industry in South East Asia is still in its infancy  in terms of technology, because very conventional, labor-intensive methods are still common practice here. Landfills are still the most frequently used means of disposal, despite the great efforts being made worldwide towards the recovery of materials and energy from these wastes. For a long time, waste management systems have been de-centralized, with any recycling or waste management activities done separately by the local or municipal authorities. Nevertheless, there has been an ongoing effort to gradually move towards an organized system for recycling, even though the rate of progress has been a little slow. 

Q: What challenges and potential do you see for the future waste management and recycling industry in South East Asia?

ML: The lack of regulations and guidelines poses one of the most serious problems that may hinder the success of a recycling program in South East Asia. The standards of solid waste storage, and collection and disposal practices are still poor, and awareness of the need for recycling and proper waste management is still somewhat limited. 

Given the rising population and the increasing growth rate of the economy, surely these factors will eventually push the local authorities to look into more-organized recycling practices and technologies. This is where – particularly in North Asia – TOMRA will be able to provide vast experience in sorting processes and well-proven technologies covering the main sectors which are strongly market-referenced.

Like other new markets, we see a good potential for PET recycling in the short term. Several industrial-scale players have been already identified, and some of these in Vietnam and Thailand already have experience of TOMRA´s optical machines. In addition, due to the increasing wages and higher cost of illegal operations in China, several Chinese companies have either moved or established their production facilities in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand. In the long run, however, we see the greatest potential in the MSW sector.

Q: If you had to describe “sensor-based sorting” in just one sentence, what would it be?

ML: Sensor-based sorting is leading the resource revolution.

Q: What was your motivation to apply for a job with a company such as TOMRA Sorting?

ML: I had been wanting to move into an industry where I could contribute to the well-being of our environment. TOMRA’s business and core values were a great inspiration and influenced my decision. I have been really honored to be accepted as part of TOMRA.

Q: What experience do you bring to your current role?

ML: Having previously been exposed to the business culture of the South East Asia markets has been an advantage in my current role. My background has been in engineering processes and bulk material handling. I am sure this will also come in handy when dealing with customers who need the kind of total solution for which TOMRA is renowned.

Welcome on board, Michael!