The project, which will be an ongoing collaboration between the organisations, was officially launched yesterday (Apr 4) at a press conference at Prince of Songkla University in Phuket, presided over by Deputy Governor Amnuay Phinsuwan.
The project aims to reduce plastic waste and encourage appropriate waste separation by promoting the benefits of recycling, otherwise known as a circular economy, within households and businesses across the island. It is funded by the European Union (EU) and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and operated by the German Organization for International Cooperation (GIZ) in Thailand together with the Phuket Municipality.
The project will leverage experiences and results from similar, previous initiatives whereby representatives from the EU and GIZ will collaborate with local government officials and members of the community to learn about their existing practices to waste management, to then identify ways that these can be improved upon.
Members of the EU, BMZ and GIZ joined students from the Prince of Songkla University Phuket Campus, Phuket Environment Foundation and KHUN Foundation yesterday in a series of interactive panel discussions to raise awareness of the campaign.
The discussions highlighted that the use and subsequent disposal of single use plastic items increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, as several enforced lockdowns resulted in people being stuck at home more frequently, turning to food delivery services which are renowned for their over-use of single use plastic such as straws, wrappers, containers and bags.
The session further emphasised that single use plastic is a waste source that is very difficult to decompose which, when discarded irresponsibly and impacted by the sun, will fragment into tiny pieces known as microplastics. These will then infiltrate soil, water sources and can lead to water and food contamination which, ultiamtely, is ingested by people.
It also stressed the devastating impact it has on the environment and wildlife and how so many sea creatures are increasingly being found with huge amounts of ingested plastic waste, which often leads to their deaths.
Dr Giuseppe Busini, Ambassador and Deputy Head of the EU Delegation, explained that the EU has been seriously trying to tackle the issue of plastic pollution globally since the introduction of the EU Plastics Management Policy in 2018.
He added that similar projects promoting the use of a circular economy to manage the issue of marine debris have been established where an exchange of knowledge across seven partner countries in Europe and Asia has proven successful. He emphasised a strong desire for Phuket to adopt this approach to work towards eradicating the problem of plastic pollution as outlined in the project roadmap.
His words were echoed by by Dr Bernd Christiansen, Diplomatic Advisor for the Ministry of Agriculture at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Thailand. Dr Christiansen stressed that plastic marine pollution is very much a global issue that requires an efficient deployment and use of resources to combat. He also recommends education and the adoption of a circular economy to drive recycling efforts as opposed to irresponsible disposal of single use plastic items in particular, adding that the pilot project details the best approach to managing and reducing plastic waste within homes and businesses.
Mr Amnuay commented that Phuket is renowned as a leading worldwide tourist destination that expects to see an increase in the number of international visitors as the situation with COVID-19 improves and precautionary health measures are further relaxed. However, he also cautioned that with more tourists will come an increase in the use of single use plastics.
He added that campaigns such as this one can help raise awareness among everyone within public and private sector organisations and the wider general public and that if everyone cooperates responsibly then Phuket can achieve its long-term goal of becoming a truly clean city.
After the plenary sessions were complete, a series of stalls manned by students were made accessible in the foyer which focused on sustainable waste management and food sources.