Zero Waste – aiming towards a better environment

01 February 2011 | Article

“Proper waste management practices could lead to ‘zero waste’ and a better and healthy environment for our future generations”, says Mr. Apidol Chareonaksorn (Kru Duj) from the Environment Resource Unit, Rung Aroon School.

In our rapidly urbanizing global society, managing solid waste is one of the biggest challenges facing all the world’s cities. However, the Rung Aroon School in Bang Khun Thian District, Bangkok, has adopted a very unique culture of ‘zero waste’ in their daily routine business. The school has been making greater efforts toward recycling every single piece that goes into the trash. For this reason, every department has a recycling section in which biodegradable and recyclable materials are separated by staff and students. From a paper to plastic to staple-pins, every item is segregated and kept in separate containers for recycling. The school also earns Thai Baht 30 per kg by selling used plastic bottles. However, their main aim is not earning money, but to teach students the best practices which contribute to a clean and healthier environment.

Mr. Apidol Chareonaksorn who is the pioneer of the project in the school, spent a long time in studying the process of ‘zero waste’ in Denmark and successfully applied the same in the Rungaroon School. His aim is to see each individual applying the same practice in his/her daily life, as he believes that proper waste management practice could lead to ‘zero waste’ and a better and healthy environment for our future generations.

Similar initiatives are also undertaken in other parts of Thailand. The Municipality of Klaeng in the Rayong province, of which the current population is over 40,000, faced various challenges with regard to waste management in the past. However, the Municipality is currently undertaking several initiatives in this regard to meet those challenges. The comparative analysis presented by the Mayor Somchai Jariyachareon indicated that after using the right approach, the size of the solid waste was reduced from 20 ton a year in the past to 18 ton a year recently. Some positive changes were also brought recently in the outlook of the city by removing trash bins from the streets and by greening the streets using organic fertilizer produced from the waste. Klaeng district is also running several other projects as part of low carbon activities, such as electrical saving energy project, fuel saving city transportation and urban agriculture campaign. The Mayor believes that the best way to deal with the issue is to have a strong leadership and to educate people and spread knowledge and information about the waste management.

The solid waste of Klaeng Municipality is administered by using simple and innovative methods, which include waste segregation, waste disposal, recycle, reuse, composting, animal farming, and vegetation. The recyclable material from the solid waste is segregated to be sold out in the market, and the rest sent to the landfills. Other recyclable materials such as papers, etc. are used for making furniture. By using this approach, the Municipality of Klaeng managed to cut down on garbage going into landfills. The animal farming is also part of the waste management process since the organic waste received from the markets, such as fruits and vegetables are fed to the animals -- goats, pigs, rabbis and ducks -- and in turn the feces of these animals are used as manure after applying ‘effective microorganisms’ (EM) for organic farming which makes their use as a fertilizer more effective. The use of EM is effective in a sense that it improves the soil quality and fertility to a greater level. EM is proved very effective in accelerating seed growth, compost development and positive impact on crop production. Spraying EM in livestock pens and waste containers also reduces the odor.

Besides, practice on vermiculture or worm composting is also part of the waste management process. Worm composting is a method for recycling food waste into a rich, dark, earth-smelling soil conditioner. Worm compost is made in containers filled with moistened bedding and worms. By adding food waste for a period of time, the worms and micro-organisms eventually convert the entire contents into rich compost.

The Evason Resort in Huahin, Pranburi is also running several initiatives with regard to waste management and environmental conservation as part of their corporate social responsibility. Evason Resort implements a waste management practice to minimize the impacts of waste on the environment. The procedure includes reducing, re-using, re-cycling and disposing of waste appropriately. Waste is systematically disposed by the appropriate channels and other biodegradable materials such as paper, glass, aluminum, plastic and metal are recycled.

Waste from the kitchen is used for animal husbandry purposes such as the pig raising farm, etc. Organic waste from garden goes through recycling process by allowing it to decompose, after a couple months it turns into natural soil conditioner and fertilizer in the resort's garden and vegetation projects. Small amount of waste is delivered to the municipal landfill.

Treated water from the water treatment plant is re-injected into ponds and streams around the resort. Plants, vegetation and the garden are watered using treated water. Many organic vegetables were seen in the garden such as yard long beans, chilies, butter crunch, rosella, oak leaf and lettuces as well as rocket and a range of herbs.

IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, through its programme in Thailand is implementing a one-year participatory integrated waste management project for healthy coral reefs in Koh Tao Suratthani, Thailand. The project started in October 2010 and is funded by Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production Ltd. Koh Tao Island is located about 70 km east of the coastline between Suratthani and Chumphon, in the Gulf of Thailand, and covers an area of about 21 Km2. The island is one of 10 top-diving destinations of the world visited by 400,000 people annually. It has been recognized that the island’s ecosystem, including coral reefs which are spread over the area of approximately 1,199.38 rai, is facing serious threats due to unsustainable and poor waste management practices.

As part of the learning exercise of this project, a study-trip to the provinces of Rayon, Chonburi and Pranburi led by IUCN inspired the stakeholders of its project to develop an understanding of the concept and learn about sustainable waste management practices. The team which comprised of representatives from the local government of Suratthani province, Koh Tao Tambon Administrative Organization, volunteers from Koh Tao Public Health and IUCN staff understood the concept and advantages of waste management in detail, and identified a number of opportunities which could be linked to improving the ecosystem in Koh Tao. The Koh Tao team will review all the options gathered during the study trip and discuss with the local administrators and authorities in Koh Tao, and come up with a firm action plan. 

The representatives from Chevron’s Corporate Responsibility Department - Ms. Sarin Pirabul and Ms. Sansana Malaiarisoon were also present on the ocassion, and appreciated IUCN's efforts in arranging this study trip. They were of the view that the team from Koh Tao will internalise useful ideas into their planning and action.
 

For more details about the project, please contact:
Ms. Radda Larpnun, Programme Officer, IUCN Thailand Programme
Email: radda.larpnun@iucn.org