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Trash Talk: Tackling waste in Phuket

Waste is one of Phuket’s greatest challenges. Each person on the island generates 1.13 kilograms of waste per day (50% of which is biodegradable). That’s over 1,000 tonnes of waste sent to the Saphan Hin incinerator every day.

By Dr Peter W Harris

Sunday 24 March 2019, 02:00PM

The island’s high level of waste and profligate use of one single-use plastics – plastic bags 15%, straws 5%, cigarette butts 5% – impacts marine life, killing sea turtles, dolphins and dugongs.

Experts on waste management and environmental protection are warning that Thailand could become the gar­bage bin of the world.

At the Asean Forum last week, Thailand committed to reduce marine debris by 50%. Thailand’s National Action Plan encourages citizens, in­cluding children, and the private sector to reduce waste at source by following the 3Rs concept: Reduce, Reuse, Re­cycle. This is where schools, business groups and NGOs have a very sig­nificant role to play and indeed many different groups are already actively contributing to the reduction of waste in Phuket.

The Asia Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), originally estab­lished in Australia and now established in Thailand, aims to contribute to building sustainable communities, including water, waste, energy and bio­diversity, with a strong commitment to social justice. APEN’s current project is bringing community groups and agen­cies together to transform the poorest area of Phuket: Koh Siray.

Connected to Phuket Town by a small bridge is the often forgotten Koh Siray. The island is home to around 10,000 people, including a village of 1,000 sea gypsies, Myanmar fishing workers and families of the poor and those in prison.

High levels of toxins in the water and the monumental amount of plastic waste that floats beneath the residents’ homes (see main photo) is directly impacting the health of the community, especially that of the children.

On April 29, between 9am and 12pm, some 40 sailors from the HMAS Canberra, the flagship of the Royal Australian Navy f leet, will be deployed to Koh Siray to participate in a clean-up of the village and help establish the kindergarten as a sus­tainable centre with fresh drinking water and a garden.

This is part of a wider project spon­sored by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which aims to transform Koh Siray into a self-sustained ecosystem, reduce waste to zero, break the poverty cycle by em­powering local waste management and increasing commercial gain by creating products to sell in local markets.

Just last week, 30 representa­tives of the Koh Siray School, Koh Siray Kindergarten, Sunshine Village Foundation and the Family and Child Centre undertook training to learn how to operate five aerobic decomposition bins (compost) at each of their centres.

The training was led by Khun Thiti, interestingly the former manager of the Saphan Hin incinerator, and was visited by the Australian Consul-General, Craig Ferguson, and the Deputy Mayor of Rassada, Pawat Supasuwan.

The four centres will be the hubs which generate action through waste assessments, sorting of waste, train­ing in waste utilisation, composting, building sustainable gardens and the development of young leaders to main­tain these changes in the community.

The Happy Green World Founda­tion develops educational programmes about waste, water and energy for children between 6 and 12 years old. The easy-to-follow programmes, which teach sustainable behaviour through a colourfully-illustrated activity guide, student book and game, see children composting, reusing plastic and tidy­ing up playgrounds, amongst a host of other regionally-specific activities. In this way, children learn that they can directly influence the environment around them.

The programme is currently be­ing developed into Thai by students at British International School, Phuket – BISP with the support of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, and will engage 2,000 students across Phuket.

Phuket’s energised Trash Hero group are well known for their regular beach cleans across the island. How­ever, they are committed to education and long-term sustainability projects too.

With a keen understanding of how waste is created, and hands-on experience of the impact that it has on the local and global environment, they create long-term programmes to help communities to remove and bet­ter manage their waste and reduce the amount of it being produced in the future. They also engage children through a multilingual kids’ programme.

The newly-founded Small Steps Phuket group share tips, ideas and re­sources to reduce waste and pollution and minimise climate change. Their ‘small steps’ philosophy demonstrates that minor changes can have real im­pact and we all have our part to play.

Plastic Free Phuket sees stu­dents, parents and teachers from UWC Thailand International School work­ing together to reduce plastic use in Phuket with the aim of protecting pre­cious marine life.

Surfers, divers and entrepreneurs, under the moniker Precious Plastic Phuket, have a different approach. Viewing the single-use plastic already here as a free raw material, they repurpose it into a whole host of beau­tiful, practical objects. Think plant pots, phone cases, tiles and tote bags.

Tackling waste is never a waste of time and the time truly is now.

Dr Peter W Harris is the Chair of APEN. They welcome anyone to join the Australian Navy at the Koh Siray half-day clean-up and Aussie barbecue on April 29. For more information, contact Songkran Kongmuang (Jimmie) on son­ or 093-1687423.

Keep an eye on the coming issues of The Phuket News as it follows APEN and the Koh Siray journey.

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DeKaaskopp | 26 March 2019 - 15:54:18

"The Thai's treat the country as a trash bin" All Thai's again? Off course would a tourist never litter anything here.And especially not the bunch of those expats with their super environmental awareness on here.Those tourists and expats are coming all from super clean countries with no pollution at all.But why do those expats still live here? 

Kurt | 26 March 2019 - 14:23:06

"This is part of wider project sponsored by..".  What has that to do with the fact thai  should keep their own country clean, or better not polluted, not become the carbage bin of the world, as experts are afraid of. Australia sees this as a teaching thai project, in the hope to prevent that thai trash not floats to their coasts and Great barrier Reef. Smart thinking 4.0 country.

Timothy | 26 March 2019 - 09:28:27

The Thai's treat the country as a trash bin. Like in that picture, they are totally comfortable being surrounded by garbage. See many, many families at beach having picnics. Surround themselves with garbage, then leave it. Garbage everywhere. Now the dirtiest air in the world. They just don't care. Even if it kills them, they won't stop burning crops, tires, garbage. Hopeless.  

DeKaaskopp | 25 March 2019 - 17:31:23

"Trash Talk" Yes,that serial poster is  an expert for that. BTW,did he read the article:"This is part of a wider project sponsored by the Australian....." So,why should Thailand feel ashamed. But what to expect from a keyboard warrior? Looser.

christysweet | 25 March 2019 - 15:19:05

Please stop promoting  incineration. Reduce Reuse Recycle (RRR) MUST be mandated. Big chain shopping makes a lot of money off of plastic. Time to start earnest  RRR campaigns in each and every store. NOW!

Kurt | 24 March 2019 - 23:39:22

And why is in 2019 the Phuket Saphan Hin incinerators still not able to handle 1000 ton of daily waste? Hello, 10,000 more rooms coming up next year! You allowed that as Phuket Government, so .. what did you initiate about the incinerator capacity?  Don't tell us you did nothing.

Kurt | 24 March 2019 - 23:27:56

All written in this article is common knowledge by Phuket governors and  officials of relevant ministries in BKK. So, why is this shame full environment situation existing? Invite more foreign navy ships to send crew on their days off  ashore to clean thai garbage/waist? Do thai officials realise these foreign forces cleaning is just sending a signal to lift their butt and ( try) to take care it t...

Kurt | 24 March 2019 - 23:14:19

As long we are calling beach cleaners beach heroes and heroines , with thanks and respect for their involvement, and not see 'to keep clean' as a normal thing, that long Thailand will remain a trash hold. I would, as thai government feel ashamed when foreign navy personal of a visiting war ship  is doing a trash cleaning job, instead of deploying own thai army/navy personal.


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