Before transforming into a village with an excellent community-based solid waste management system, “Rang Plub” was once a village inundated with trash.
Krub Yai Subdistrict Municipality in Ban Pong district, Ratchaburi province, showed the data saying that each month, Rang Plub Moo 1 generated about 12 tons of waste. A cumulative waste generation for a year could rise to nearly 150 tons. If we pile them altogether, Rang Plub could have a mountain of garbage.
“In the past, municipal workers would come to collect waste in our village, and it took them about 3-4 hours to clear them. Excessive solid waste threw out the workers’ back. The trash had left an unpleasant smell in the village. The municipality would come to collect the waste here 2-3 times a week. After the waste was emptied, the next day the trash bins were full again. And villagers started to move trash bins to in front of the neighbors’ houses, causing conflicts and resentments. And an epidemic ensued. Many villagers in Rang Plub suffered dengue fever due to the still water at the waste site, making it a perfect breeding ground for dengue mosquitos.”
“It turned out that waste didn’t only cause dirtiness; it also brought divisions, hatred, and illness all at once.”
As a village leader, Mr. Sanan Techadee, Headman of Rang Plub has been aware of the problems. Despite not being born a Rang Plub person, half of his life was spent here as he settled with his family in the village. It is not wrong to say that he has become a full Rang Plub person.
Headman Sanan comprehended that waste is the root cause of all problems. Thus, if waste problems are properly managed, other issues will subside. However, to attain success is to take time and endure. Nothing comes easy. As a 56-year-old community leader, he was apparently not different from a blind man and the elephant.
“What we knew was that we had to simply manage waste. But we didn’t know a suitable solution for the community. We didn’t know where to start. We took educational trips to other provinces and learned from success stories on waste separation practices from other villages. We later launched our waste separation program. But it appeared that piles of garbage were back just after waste sorting two weeks ago. We had to redesign the approach, and we figured out that the real problem is the trash bin. As long as there are trash bins available, villagers will not take the measure seriously. They think that they can always drop their waste in the trash bin. If there are no waste bins for real, it will prompt them to think harder on which trash to toss out and which not.”
“We believe that different communities have different solutions. The community leader must be able to crystallize the best solution that fits the community. But importantly, committed action must take place. In the beginning, we might do something wrong. It happens. But we should not be discouraged and actively work on it to the end. I believe it will ultimately succeed.”
Headman Sanan took it seriously by asking the municipal workers to remove all trash bins and forcefully instructed them not to return the bins despite the villager’s request; otherwise, they will have to strain their back again for 3-4 hours.
He didn’t entirely take forceful actions. In the beginning, Headman Sanan encouraged villagers to adapt to the change by giving away trash bags to be used as a substitution to trash bins, before wholly removing them at a later time. As expected, the headman encountered initial resistance from villagers. But later, resentments abated.
“Once there is no place to drop waste, villagers started to separate garbage earnestly. We also launched a strict measure and used a weight scale with each household. As the waste amount dwindles, the municipality’s waste collection schedule is cut down to every Monday instead of 2-3 times a week.”
From taking 3-4 hours to collect the waste for 2-3 days a week, the municipal workers now take less than an hour to collect waste of 358 households only on Monday. Each household leaves the garbage bag in front of their houses. Each bag is as light as cotton wool. All trash is orderly sorted.
The waste management system at Rang Plub community follows the 3R philosophy: Reduce to eliminate waste generation; Reuse to maximize usage of materials; and Recycle to collect sorted waste materials for recycling. Hazardous waste, such as light bulbs or chemicals, will be collected at the village hall, which is a place agreed by residents.
Headman Sanan does not only help lessen waste amount but also add value to waste. He managed to make an agreement with the waste buyers to purchase waste from Rang Plub community at a price higher than the market price. This approach inspired villagers to take steadfast action on waste management.
“If they toss away the trash, they toss away the money. It turns out that waste is no longer waste but extra income for communities. Today, villagers in Ban Rang Plub can earn extra income from waste separation.”
What’s Headman Sanan said is, by all means, no baseless statements. Aunty Fong Thongkanya, top-notch waste separator at Rang Plub endorsed his words, saying she has gained more income from selling separated waste. She also crafts some products from recycled rubbish. The scheme helps the community generate an average of several hundreds of extra income monthly.
“It may seem like little money for some people, but for villagers like us, it’s a lot. It’s free money earned from no investment. For hats, we crafted them from waste. We only bought threads at a few Baht. If you discover the trash’s value, it can make more earnings with waste separation.”
Aunty Fong is the top-notch waste separator at Rang Plub. Others might find garbage putrid and dirty, but for her, it’s no difference from treasure.
“These days, if I spot any garbage, I want to collect them. Different garbage has different prices. If we know the price, we can thoroughly separate them and make more money. For a clear plastic bottle, people unaware of proper sorting will sell the whole bottle. But if we remove the bottle cap, we will make more money because the cap price is higher. If we have the knowledge, we will know that waste is valuable, like what Headman Sanan has said.”
Apart from adding value to waste and generating more income for the community, villagers at Rang Plub transformed unsellable waste like organic waste into natural fertilizers to grow rice and vegetable for household consumption, promoting circular economy in the community.
Nowadays, villagers at Rang Plub doesn’t need to buy anything. They plant rice and have it milled at a village rice mill for themselves. Vegetables are grown around the house for household use. Every grain of rice and piece of vegetable are thriving from waste-based fertilizers.
“We launched the scheme “Edible Vegetable Garden,” motivating villagers to start their own vegetable garden with waste-based fertilizers for household use. But we will not encourage them to grow a mixed cropping system. If any villagers don’t have a particular vegetable, they can ask from their neighbors. The idea is to develop a sense of reliance on each other as well as harmonious relationship and unity in the community.”
Mr. Vichien Sopa, a 43-year-old deputy headman, is another key person of Rang Plub community. He described that he used a stratagem to achieve the primary goal. Once being plagued with conflicts, villagers at Rang Plub now live in harmony and can leave home with the neighbors when they are away. Perhaps, this is the best security fencing which could even be better than having a vegetable garden.
Headman Sanan and his deputy Vichien want to accomplish a bigger goal. They don’t want these sustained efforts to stop here at the village. They want to spread this idea and pass it on to younger generations. For this reason, waste management at source is put as one of the school’s activities, involving young people to take part in the village development and take a role as a tour guide to provide information about the community to visitors.
“If we don’t pass on this on to new generations, things will end with our generation. The period of sustainability will not be sustained. One day, things will fall apart, and the same problems will return. If we plant good seeds and nurture them with a sense of community empowerment, they will see the greatness in the community. One day, they may want to advance what we have built. And believe me, when that day comes, they will make it even better than us.”
However, that’s the future decades ahead. To maintain sustainability, Rang Plub community has begun to pass on experiences and become an exemplary model for neighboring villages. This is extending the success and build solidarity at a larger scale.
“If success stops only in our community, it will not be sustainable. If our neighbors have proper waste management and better quality of life, it will be more sustainable. Now, we have the opportunity to mentor about 17 communities. We give knowledge and guidance. They took educational trips here and applied the know-how that suits their community.”
“It’s going great now. All 17 communities can slash up to 40% of waste. If they succeed, they will become another exemplary model for other communities. Our success will be extended to a wider scale.”
Rang Plub community won a series of awards ranging from the Zero Waste Award in the category of “Large Community” in 2019, 1st runner-up award of Sa-Ard Buri Project. They were presented two national-level awards by the Department of Environmental Quality Promotion, on top of the provincial award of Sufficiency Economy Village.
However, a series of awards cannot be compared to the top prize they earn every day.
Not a global or national award, but a simple one that all humans desire for…
A simple yet meaningful award for Rang Plub villagers: “Good Quality of Life.”
Master Theerachot Sriwichai (Jern) a young tour guide and the future of Rang Plub community
“I was born here as a Rang Plub resident. Currently, I live with my grandparents. My parents work in Bangkok. We will see each other during New Year and Songkran holidays. Even though I am not with my parents, I am happy and never feel lonely. There are so many activities I can join, such as waste management projects or being a tour guide to provide information to visitors during educational trips.
“When there are visitors to Rang Plub community, the village headman will ask the school to take me as a tour guide to provide information about the community’s waste separation practice and community livelihood. So far, the largest group I have welcomed is about 200 people. As a tour guide, I can get to meet new people and learn new things. I learned that our village has a lot of good things which adults have built for us.”
“Asked me what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be SCG’s top management so that I can do good things for the village. If not, I’ll continue contributing to Rang Plub community because this is my home.”
Eco-Friendly Compost Bucket
One of the outstanding efforts at Rang Plub community is integrating innovations into waste management practices. One if their very best innovation is the compost bucket. It is the innovation used to ferment waste and turn them into organic fertilizers in just a few days.
“It’s undeniable that our daily wastes are food scraps. If we don’t know where to dump it, we can just drop them in the compost bucket. We are so grateful that SCG has provided us knowledge and brought this innovation to Rang Plub community,” said Headman Sanan.
The compost bucket is an assemblage of 3 plastic buckets. we drilled several holes at the bottom of the first bucket. For the second bucket, we made small holes around the side edges and removed the bottom end and put it on top of the first bucket. For the last one, we removed the bottom end and put it on top of the second bucket. And then, we close the top end and buried it underground. When we pour the easily composting food scraps, the microbes and soil animals will turn organic matter into soil nutrients, boosting healthy crops for vegetables without adding additional fertilizers. This is an automatically direct nutrient injection to the soil.
Creativity Never Expires
At Rang Plub, every house is furnished with materials made from waste.
People here are full of creativity. Villagers transformed useless waste into valuable and unique materials. Examples include turning a broken microwave oven into a letterbox, making the old refrigerator into a bookcase, turning unused helmets, milk cartons, soda cans, or old baskets into plant pots or transforming beer cans into a tissue box. Even am old satellite dish is made into a direction sign.
“If you walk around Rang Plub community, you’ll spot tons of stuff made from useless waste. It is up to which you see. But it’s impossible that you will never spot one.” Vichien Sopha, a 43-year-old headman deputy, described waste-based materials furnished in the community with a smile.
It is said that all things in the world will reach the end of the lifespan. Everything has an expiration date. However, there are something that can live on, no matter how much time has passed. It can become even more vivid but never fall apart.
That thing is planted inside the villager at Rang Plub community.
It’s creativity that never expires.