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Happy Habitat: How to recycle 100 per cent of your consumer waste in Phuket

In previous columns, I have covered several “how to” aspects of waste management in Phuket, including recycling and proper disposal of garbage at the incinerator. Today, I want to share my most recent trip to the local recycling depot.

By Steven Layne

Sunday 7 February 2016, 06:12AM

Unlike previous trips, this time I was able to sell all – 100 per cent – of my solid waste, accumulated and separated from the past three months or so.

This time I took a few lead-acid batteries that were past their time, a few bags of aluminium cans, several bags of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles, another few bags of mixed paper and cardboard, and another few bags of miscellaneous plastic, which included PE (Polyethylene), PP (Polypropylene) and general wrapping and plastic bags.

If you’ve got the time and can be bothered, you can separate your plastics precisely and get better prices for some of the plastic, but I was happy to accept the lower price for mixed plastic and let the depot worry about separating it.

No matter what recyclable waste you bring, though, most important is that it is separated “like with like”, so tin should be separated from aluminium, plastic from paper, copper from steel, and so forth. And just as important is to ensure that your recyclables are all dry, not wet and mixed with organics.

A lot of this goes back to your consumer habits, and ensuring that when you produce organic waste, that it doesn’t end up with other solid wastes, whether you plan to sell it or pay to dispose of it through your municipality or directly at the landfill.

Most consumers are lazy and just throw it all in the same trash bag and throw it “away” – but remember, it doesn’t “go away”, it just becomes somebody else’s problem, which ultimately is
your problem… Yes, bad karma will follow you, I promise!

Indeed, good consumer habits are key. So, I was able to recycle and sell all of my solid waste from the past three months, and I owe much of this accomplishment to conscious consumer decisions and following a few guidelines that I’m going to share with you right now.

In Phuket, there are about four types of items that the local depots want nothing to do with, and hence will not buy it back from you.

These are:

1. Old wood: probably because it’s prone to termites;
2. Used polystyrene food containers: while I heard you might be able to recycle clean polystyrene containers in Central Thailand, where most such products are made, the price isn’t high enough here to justify resell and transport, and besides, much of it is very dirty, tainted from the food it once stored. By the way, styrene is a known carcinogen that multiple studies show leaches into food;
3. Snack packaging, and wrappers, like the foil plastic bags potato chips and cookies are sold in: again, probably because of the likelihood it will be tainted with organic waste;
4. Mirrors, particularly broken mirrors: while I was surprised to learn they’ll buy back broken glass, broken mirrors are associated with superstitions.

In sum, if you can avoid consuming the above items, then you will never have to worry about disposing them, never mind recycling them. I didn’t consume any of the above, and thus all the solid waste I did use over the past several months were recyclable.

Another key element is to “REUSE” waste items. This is particularly true for organic and wet waste, which can be great for the garden – coffee grounds and sunflower seed shells, for example. More on this another time. Happy Recycling!

To learn more about recycling in Phuket, be sure to check out previous articles on by searching they keywords “recycling” and “dump” or click the links above. 



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