From trash to treasure - recycling in Phuket
PHUKET: The big open warehouse and factory that acts as a receptacle for much of Phuket’s recycled materials is always a bustling place.
Saturday 27 August 2011, 10:08AM
Big trucks turn into the facility, next to the new Shell service station on the road to Kathu, about a kilometre from the Tesco Lotus-Kathu intersection.
A constant stream of saleng (motorbikes withsidecars) comes laden with recyclables that have been recovered from rubbish bins everywhere by eager collectors. For many of these collectors, selling recyclables provides their only income, meager as it is.
Staff at the Wongpanit Garbage Recycle Separation Plant wait at the scales to weigh the metal items that are brought in to be sold to this big commercial recycler on the island. All around are mountains of materials, discarded by the community as useless, and these mountains grow daily.
The recycling depot is one of about 400 branches that the Wongpanit parent company in Bangkok operates around the country, and its business is growing fast.
Manager, Nithi Ruktaetrakul, says that daily household refuse, usually all dumped in the bin together, typically consists of four categories: compostable, hazardous waste, recyclables and general rubbish to be disposed of.
He says that if residents take a little time to sort their garbage, separating out the recyclables, 60 to 70 per cent of these items can be these can amount to 60-70 per cent of the refuse that can be happily recycled or reused by someone else.
He says Phuket and Thailand have the advantage of a large army of collectors always on the lookout to pick up recyclables to sell. Municipal collectors, working on the back of rubbish trucks, do this sorting as they go along, to sell on recyclable items and supplement their very basic pay.
Phuket has no factories to recycle glass, plastic or paper, so these materials are sorted at the Phuket warehouse and then trucked to other provinces, such as Rayong and Chon Buri, which have the plants for recycling them.
Intact empty beer and soft drink bottles are gladly bought back to be refilled by drinks producers – it saves them having to buy new bottles – while others are melted down and used to make other glass items. Aluminum cans, foam and plastic, too, can be melted down and reconstituted, though this requires a more complex process and higher energy consumption.
Organic materials are only starting to be commercially processed into compost for gardens and agriculture in Phuket, in what seems to be a commercial niche waiting to be filled.
Most organic refuse now ends up as “wet” bulk waiting to be burned at the Phuket Town incinerator at Saphan Hin – 750 tonnes of it arriving every day in garbage trucks coming from all over the island. The existing municipal incinerator can only manage a third of that amount.
A second big incinerator currently being built at the whopping B100 million, will doubel that capacity to 500 tonnes, but that still means 250 tonnes a day will end up being dumped in the filthy landfill near the incinerating plant that is gradually extending into the sea.
Mr Nithi says recycling begins at home. His own mother saves her all fruit peelings and digs them into any available pot plant soil in her high-rise apartment, creating free compost.
He urges everyone to make compost, and separate out all our recyclables for the sake of our small and beautiful island, which has very limited space for our waste.
Just put the recyclables out separately with your other rubbish for collection for the “professional” recyclers to profit from.
– Norachai Thavisin
Where can you take your recyclables to dispose of or sell?
• The main Wongpanit Garbage Recycle Separation Plant is at Pra Phuket Kaew Rd, Kathu. Turn into the small soi next to the new Shell station. Tel: 076 203271.
• Wongpanit’s Thalang depot is on Thepkrasattri Rd in Baan Lipon. Tel: 076 311224.
• Patsakorn Co’s depot, on Srisoonthorn Rd, Phuket Town. Tel: 089 8740758.
• Ko Piean Co’s depot is in Soi Paneang, Sam Kong, Phuket Town. Tel: 080 5373295.
• Kanya Co’s depot is on Pracha Ruamjai Rd (off 4023) in Phuket Town. Tel: 081 5385448.