Countries worldwide are seeking solutions to solve environmental problems. “Waste Overload” was undeniably among major direct and indirect causes of environmental crises. Such problems arise from human consumption activities. Believe it or not, over 26.77 million tons of solid waste and plastic waste is generated in the country each year.
Based on the research collaboration between the U.S. and Australia led by an environmental engineer Jenna Jambeck 0f the University of Georgia, Thailand was ranked fifth among all countries as a major contributor to plastic waste, accounted for 2 million tons of the total amount. Of that waste, a mere 0.5 million ton was recycled while the remainder of the 1.5 million tons goes to landfill and incineration. Some are left untreated and mismanaged are, as a result, leaked into the ocean. They have become what we often see: garbage patches.
What we can do today is to change the way we live and consume. To be more specific, we have to maximize the use of plastic waste to mitigate environmental impacts. The SCG Circular Way or “Resource Maximization, Correct Sorting, Proper Disposal” is a simple-yet-effective daily approach that everyone can take to help cut waste.
This approach is a way to protect the earth’s environment and natural resources at source. The method can ensure the maximization and utilization of resources through the concept of reuse and extension of the product lifespan to reduce new resource utilization and minimize the amount of waste generated after use.
One of the eco-practitioners, Chumanee Namdaeng, who once lived in Belgium, had been instilled with a sense of a green consciousness in her time there. When returning to Bangkok, she has adopted plastic waste management practices intending to improve the environment in Thailand.
“I lived in Belgium for some time, and the concept of waste management is an integral part of people’s everyday lives there. I then decided to adopt plastic waste management practice. For example, to manage an empty juice bottle, I will try to find a way to make the most of it, like exploring its possible benefits before throwing it away. We can reuse this bottle as a water container in the fridge or a container to organize liquid products in the bathroom or a container for pet food. But if we really need to dispose of it, we will send it to the waste management company or any relevant agencies to make sure that the waste item can be properly managed,” Chumanee Namdaeng.
On top of that, Chumanee aspires to be a good example and imparts her eco-friendly ideas to younger generations, “I always feel content when I manage waste properly and do good things to the environment. And when I see more people follow suit, I feel fulfilled. I hope that Thai people will do it on a wider scale in the future. The environment will be in better shape, like what it is in other countries.”
At the same time, Piyawan Sompon also has another interesting way to maximize resources. She encourages us to use the simplest method: start it at home.
“I noticed that a drawer was full of plastic bags. I came up with an idea of reusing these plastic bags when I go shopping to cut the use of new plastic bags. I have used a cloth shopping bag for ten years as a way to reduce waste. And for the used items like glass, plastic, bags, or food packaging, I wash and reuse all of them until they cannot be reused anymore” These approaches will help slash waste amount and delay the use of new resources.
Once applying resource maximization to address problems, still, the waste items need to be discarded in the end. The most efficient solution to protect the environment and reduce waste is correct sorting by appropriate separate waste items where different waste types: general waste, recyclable waste, or hazardous waste are properly sorted to ensure that the waste collectors or relevant units can recycle or add value to them.
A story that can illustrate how it works is from Oraporn Dumrongwongsiri, who realizes the problem of waste overload and has applied waste separation practice. She discovered a major turning point, “In the past, when I bought water either in the form of a cup or bottle, I would throw it away in a single use. But after I saw the news about how it could impact the environment like the loss of marine animals or piles of waste that can induce pollution in our daily life. I came to realize that and wanted to do something to reduce the amount of waste in the world.”
The plastic waste item that Oraporn grows fond of managing is the plastic straw and general plastic waste that cannot be sold to junkmen. As a matter of fact, there is a way to transform these plastic straws into something meaningful that doesn’t harm the ecology, and that is the straw pillow.
“I was figuring out how to handle these used straws until I discovered a project that makes straw pillows. They chop plastic straws into small pieces and use them as the pillow’s filling instead of cotton. I made it myself to see if it works, and it did. My family came together to do it. It has become like a small family project that can help develop children’s skills and raise environmental awareness. If we do this at a larger scale, the waste problems caused by plastic straws will lessen.”
Witchapat Rujira who did a research on ecotourism and waste issues on Koh Samui island has discovered that the community’s environmental problems and marine life threats are principally induced by ocean trash. After this realization, she felt the need to restore the marine ecosystem and habitat. And the solution she thinks can improve the environment in the community is waste separation.
“From a person who doesn’t care anything about the environment, after researching on Koh Samui’s sustainable tourism and Trash Hero innovation, I came to understand these environmental problems, and I felt that I need to change myself. What I have learned is that it doesn’t matter how advanced the technology is, if the people in the community don’t come together to solve the problem, things will not get fixed. That’s when I started to sort waste, and I have maintained this habit for about six months now.”
Waste sorting is not an only green approach Witchapat takes but recycling. “Waste sorting is essential. If waste sorting is properly done, we and many waste collection units in society can recycle and make more use of them. These wastes will no longer be worthless or eventually pollute the environment. These plastic items are durable, and they can be transformed into Ecobrick or any decorative home items like a cool hanging mobile. What we need to do is sort, separate, clean, dry, and compress.”
Wastes are now well sorted. If we want to make the most use of it, proper disposal is the next step to achieve a circular model. Each waste type should be disposed of in the right bin as it will make waste sorting and recycling more manageable. Currently, many projects and groups are working toward plastic waste recycling and management. Besides, we need to raise public awareness of prohibiting littering public spaces, tourist attractions, roads, rivers, and natural environments.
Sasipapha Mankong is another one who felt that the proper disposal of garbage could bring many advantages.
“There are many types of plastic wastes that are not naturally biodegradable. Before this, I didn’t know any companies that treat recyclable items with a non-incineration approach. I did some research and found the Facebook page ‘Little Bee Hero’ that produce Eco Bricks. I then learned what it is and how to do it. It has inspired me to keep separating waste. I keep sending these items to this project since they can further utilize the items.”
One green activity that Sisipapha is committed to doing is making Ecobricks.
“Making Ecobricks is simple. We can just clean used plastic bottles, dry them, and then pack trash items that are not biodegradable tight into the bottle. The trash items can be snack bags, candy wrappers, any plastic or film materials. Ecobricks can be put to good use in construction like Ecobrick wall or part of the furniture for value addition or resource maximization.
Environmental protection isn’t an individual’s job. It is a close-to-home issue that everyone should pay attention to and act before it’s too late. And importantly, changing habits is not difficult. You can start it at home and learn how to appropriately recycle, reuse, reduce, sort, and dispose of waste. All these actions can help improve the environment and make the world a better place for us and generations to come.
Before throwing away trash, remember to always think of “Resource Maximization, Correct Sorting, Proper Disposal” in line with the circular economy or SCG Circular Way. One day we may discover a better way to recycle these wastes for ourselves and society in the future.
If we change, the world changes. We can start our action today to make the world a better place for us and everyone.