Nearly everyone in On Nut 14 Rai Community in Prawet District, Bangkok, is living hand-to-mouth.
A bid to change the world or keep the community clean and in order have never been a priority. Living to survive a day is struggling.
But amid poverty, On Nut 14 Rai Community shifted to become the community model that takes action on waste management. In the community, not only waste — seen by many as worthless — can be used as money in exchange for goods, but also connect people in the community together.
It’s probably not an overstatement to say that waste has improved their lives.
As a community leader, Peerathon Seniwong had struggled to reduce poverty and conflicts plagued in On Nut 14 Rai community until he realized the game-changing thing that can unlock all those problems: waste.
A middle-aged man making a living as a waste collector decided to spend 2,000 Baht to buy essential goods such as detergent, soap, toothpaste, shampoo in exchange for recyclable household garbage where the prices are varied based on material types.
“If you want to get a 20-Baht shampoo, you don’t need to use your money to buy it; you can just bring a collection of trash worth 20 Baht here instead. This method is a win-win situation where buyers can save money and slash household waste. And I don’t need to go out to collect waste as they come to me, with an even higher amount. In terms of value, I can make profits both way: the cost of shampoo is 15 Baht but the trash amount to exchange for this shampoo is 20 Baht. The actual waste price that I can earn is up to 40 Baht. So, I make a margin profit of 25 Baht where 5 Baht is from the product margin and 20 Baht of waste profit margin.”
This makes a perfect business model. However, he realized that people of over 120 households in On Nut 14 Rai community barely know each other. People live separate lives. Peerathorn believed that other problems would arise if this situation continues. He thought that something must be brought about to connect everyone.
And nothing cannot make a difference as much as waste.
Zero Baht Plus Store
Peerathorn decided to open “Zero Baht Plus Store” at On Nut 14 Rai Community and invited community residents to join membership where the store offers patronage dividend. Applicants can simply trade waste worth 100 Baht to become a store member. Every six months, members will be paid dividends of 30% of gross profit.
“The outcome is that the people in community work towards waste separation at source. To trade waste for goods or membership, members need to bring trash here. Another outcome observed is that people in the community get to know each other more. While they bring waste in exchange for goods or increased capital stock at Zero Baht Plus Store, they talk to each other, and they become close because of waste.”
Currently, Zero Baht Plus Store has a total of 94 households as members. Although the community residents don’t live lavishly as millionaires, they are happy and live a good life, the community leader Peerathorn envisioned beyond that.
Welfare From Waste
“We come to think about how to take care of community members. We want to put them on good welfare while they are still alive. We then launched a welfare scheme to provide relief for our community members by using waste as a link.”
Anyone wishes to receive the benefit must bring trash worth 1 Baht to Zero Baht Plus Store every day. The drop-off can be made daily or monthly at 30 Baht per month. With this commitment, the person will immediately be entitled to the welfare at On Nut 14 Rai Community.
“The welfare benefits include 1) 200-Baht daily compensation for hospitalization, 2) 100-Baht transportation fee for each doctor visit at a maximum of 7 visits per year, 3) 500-Baht educational grants per semester awarded to students with good academic records, 4) 5-kilogram rice per month for the elderly living without a caregiver, 5) funeral support including a wreath, casket, souvenirs and one-night funeral cost. All members are informed that funds, regardless of payment continuation or discontinuation, cannot be withdrawn. The funds are intended to help community members escape hardship and achieve happiness.”