Chao Phraya clean-up shines light on lit­ter­bugs

In just one hour, vol­un­teers net more than 2,000 plas­tic bags and 1,300 foam pieces, writes Om Jotikasthira

Bangkok Post - - NATIONAL - THITI WANNAMONTHA

Ato­tal of 132 kilo­grammes of solid waste was col­lected from the Chao Phraya River af­ter just one hour of clean­ing in an ef­fort ini­ti­ated by pri­vate and gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions on Sat­ur­day. The clean-up, nor­mally con­ducted an­nu­ally, was held on Fri­day and Sat­ur­day as part of an ini­tia­tive to find strate­gies to im­prove the coun­try’s waste man­age­ment sys­tem.

Clean­ing was con­ducted along a 6km stretch of the river, from Rama III Bridge to Yod­pi­man Flower Mar­ket.

Among the par­tic­i­pants were the Bangkok Met­ro­pol­i­tan Ad­min­is­tra­tion (BMA), the Eco-Cap­i­tals Fo­rum, vol­un­teers from Mahi­dol Univer­sity In­ter­na­tional Col­lege (MUIC) and Bangkok Univer­sity In­ter­na­tional (BUI) and the Bangkok River Part­ners (BRP).

The lat­ter is a co-op con­sist­ing of var­i­ous stake­hold­ers in the Chao Phraya River and sur­round­ing ar­eas, in­clud­ing ho­tels, re­tail com­plexes and trans­port op­er­a­tors.

As part of the clean­ing event, vol­un­teers and rep­re­sen­ta­tives boarded BMA clean­ing boats, where they col­lected float­ing solid waste along the river’s body and nearby river­bank. Other groups were also as­signed to clean nearby roads.

In con­trast with pre­vi­ous events, this year’s ac­cu­mu­lated solid waste was sep­a­rated into seven dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories, in­clud­ing plas­tic and sty­ro­foam, ac­cord­ing to MUIC lec­turer Ditthayanan Punyaratabandhu.

She said the data col­lected from sep­a­rat­ing the garbage into dif­fer­ent types will as­sist fu­ture dis­cus­sions with par­tic­i­pat­ing ho­tels to im­prove waste man­age­ment, such as en­cour­ag­ing them to stop serv­ing wa­ter in plas­tic bot­tles.

Ac­cord­ing to her, in one hour, BMA au­thor­i­ties and vol­un­teers were able to col­lect more than 2,000 plas­tic bags, 700 plas­tic bot­tles and 600 plas­tic cups.

More than 1,300 foam pieces were also col­lected, she added.

“Most peo­ple wouldn’t throw plas­tic bot­tles di­rectly into the river, so when they see sty­ro­foam or bot­tles in the wa­ter they don’t think they are re­spon­si­ble for them,” Ms Ditthayanan said.

“Even if peo­ple are not mak­ing the world dirt­ier to­day, ev­ery sin­gle piece of plas­tic that they throw away will stay in

the en­vi­ron­ment for at least 450 years.”

Suwanna Jun­grun­gru­eng, di­rec­tor­gen­eral of the BMA’s Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment, said the ad­min­is­tra­tion has been closely co­or­di­nat­ing with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from MUIC to con­duct fur­ther re­search into waste man­age­ment strate­gies in the coun­try.

She said the BMA has been steadily dis­cour­ag­ing the use of sty­ro­foam as a con­tainer for food, cit­ing health risks re­lated to its use.

How­ever, she said it would be dif­fi­cult for street ven­dors to im­me­di­ately switch to biodegrad­able plates in­stead of us­ing foam and plas­tic. She said the pub­lic must first take ac­tion to be­come more en­vi­ron­men­tally-con­cerned.

“If we ask ven­dors to switch from foam to tapi­oca-based con­tain­ers, for in­stance, their costs would def­i­nitely in­crease, and they would not ac­cept that bur­den,” Ms Suwanna said.

“But if we start ed­u­cat­ing the pub­lic that eat­ing from foam plates — espe­cially when the plates are put un­der heat — will give them health prob­lems, peo­ple will start to ac­cept the ex­tra cost.”

BUI lec­turer Madeleine Reck­nagel

Ev­ery sin­gle piece of plas­tic thrown away will stay in the en­vi­ron­ment for at least 450 years.

DITTHAYANAN PUNYARATABANDHU MUIC LEC­TURER

said Thai­land is in dire need of a ful­ly­func­tion­ing waste-man­age­ment sys­tem, cit­ing the 61 mil­lion foam con­tain­ers are used in Thai­land each day. “Ev­ery­thing that gets thrown into the canals even­tu­ally comes to the Chao Phraya River, where it gets washed out into the ocean,” she said.

She said sev­eral plas­tic bot­tles in Thai­land also still lack la­bels that clas­sify the spe­cific type of plas­tic used in the man­u­fac­tur­ing process. “Each kind of plas­tic can be reused, so long as we know what type of plas­tic it is,” she said. “With­out this in­for­ma­tion, the BMA is un­able to re­cy­cle the bot­tles ef­fi­ciently.”

Mrs Madeleine added that in her home coun­try of Ger­many, re­tail stores levy ex­tra charges on those who pur­chase plas­tic bot­tles. How­ever, she noted those charges can be re­deemed once the con­tain­ers are re­turned to vend­ing ma­chines des­ig­nated to col­lect used plas­tic bot­tles.

Vol­un­teers sort garbage col­lected dur­ing the Clean Up the River cam­paign. A to­tal of 132 kilo­grammes of solid waste was col­lected from the Chao Phraya River af­ter just one hour of clean­ing in an ef­fort ini­ti­ated by pri­vate and gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions on Sat­ur­day.

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