Human activities indisputably cause the waste crisis, and the solution to it begins from nowhere else but with ourselves and collaboration of all sectors on a mission to raise environmental awareness and improve knowledge. The goal is to advance the society toward the Circular Economy that establishes a practical and sustainable upstream, midstream, and downstream waste management.
“Managing Waste” Involves Everyone and Every Sector
When hearing the stories of marine mammals die because of the waste, who should be responsible: the manufacturer that makes products, the customer that irresponsibly discards waste or lack of legal measures?
“All of us are waste” is a concise and reflective summary of the crisis. Dr. Sumet Tantivejkul, Vice Chairman of SCG, said in the event “SD Symposium 10 Years: Circular Economy – Collaboration for Action” held by SCG. His notion is that waste has affected all lives. Without humans, there will be no garbage. “Even our breath generates waste,” added Dr. Sumet.
What Dr. Sumet said is in alignment with the views of many experts who agree that the issue must be solved first at the individual level and all sectors must cooperate.
Managing Waste “Managing Self”
In the topic discussion of “Thailand Waste Management Way Forward” to brainstorm and present four measures to tackle waste management to the prime minister, Mr. Varoon Varanyanon, Assistant Manager for Chulalongkorn Zero Waste Project said about the waste contribution of consumers – waste producers:
“Waking up in the morning, we have breakfast. Glass, coffee cup, sticky rice, and grilled pork we have will end up as litter, the waste caused by consumption and usage. Consumer and manufacturers are both (waste producers).”
Dr. Jitraporn Phaksopa, a lecturer from the Department of Marine Science Faculty of Fisheries, Kasetsart University, another panel speaker, admitted that the effective waste management system could not achieve the optimum results if lack of moves at the individual level.
“For the issue of ocean waste, I want everyone to cast aside the old mentality where the ocean is vast, and throwing one garbage will not do any harm. Sadly, it seems that many people really think this way.”
Recently, the death of the marine mammals such as whale, dolphins or “Mariam” a popular dugong in Thailand has upset the public and triggered a sharper focus on the waste crisis, inspiring people to change the way they consume products by minimizing the use of resources such as carrying reusable cups and cloth bags.
Good Waste Management Must Be Established
To change the consumer’s behaviors to reduce the waste amount requires supportive alliance. Regarding this, Mr. Varoon brought the issues of consumer lacking awareness of appropriate litter discarding or facing “One Bin for All” waste situation, hindering waste separation efforts.
“There is a need to establish a system first before telling them to dispose of waste properly. We must show them the real benefits of waste separation,” Mr. Varoon said.
Consistent with the survey result of 700 participants, 77 percent agreed that the establishment of an integrated waste management system e.g., the use of color symbols, waste collection schedules is the way to manage waste effectively.
In the discussion, Mr. Gen Takahashi from JFE Engineering put a success story of waste management at Yokahama in Japan. The clear policy was introduced with a requirement of separation of a few types of waste. Later on, it has led to a substantial waste separation action. So far, the city can cut about 40 percent of waste despite the growing population.
Mr. Varoon noted that at present, one group of consumers is profoundly committed to waste sepearation and reduction while another ignores such practices. For the latter group, it may require a stricter law enforcement to motivate actions.
Control Law Must Be Respected
The Pollution Control Department released the data stating that the waste amount in Thailand is on the rise. In 2018, Thailand contributed to 28 million tons of waste, increased by 2 percent from 2017, leading to waste overload and waste deposition to the water sources. One reason is that people do not follow the law. Not only litter are thrown away, but also large items such as furniture too. Mr. Sansern Ruengrit, group head of the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority’s Drainage and Sewerage Department, published photos of waste floating in Khlong Prem Prachakorn canal with a tweet:
“Large trash items are directly thrown into the canals. The Drainage and Sewerage Department has to sail on the boat to collect these wastes every day.”
Dr. Jitraporn recommended that widespread law enforcement action might be arduous. It may start with tightening the law by arresting and fining communities near water sources for throwing waste to prevent waste from entering the oceans. This approach was in line with the symposium survey, where 47 percent agreed on the strict law enforcement on waste deposing as to the most effective solution to waste management.
Turning Waste to Value
Apart from measures and penalties, creating values to waste is plausibly an option. Mr. Kamol Borrisuttanakul, Chief Financial Officer of TPBI Public Company Limited, said to this topic:
“We must regard waste as materials such as viewing bags and films as materials. With this mentality, we can find a place for them.” Mr. Kamol also noted that we should start with encouraging separating simple litter to make it more doable for customers. Even though it is not 100 percent achievable, but we can start doing it with some material types, and then we can further expand the practice into other types.
Furthermore, the manufacturers may play a crucial role in handling responsible scrap management with challenging materials such as e-waste, furniture, or household consumer products. The measures or policies on product design that minimize waste generation or using biodegradable or recycling materials can be the answer. These measures can be done along with providing the public an adequate knowledge of waste separation.
Mr. Worakit Muangthai, Managing Director of Farm D Company Limited, agree on seeking partnership to generate values of waste at the community level.
“If the campaign on waste-to-value is thriving, local people will adopt waste separation method. But if you push this burden onto the government, I believe the government alone cannot handle it”
4.0 Waste Management
In the 4.0 era, technologies have been leveraged to supervise waste management system. Farm D is among companies that develop waste management application by making an app as a waste point collection book that can provide incentives for consumers. The system also shows the entrepreneurs a clear material price estimate and quantity.
“This application can show the location and waste quantity which allow us to manage logistics systems or match the demand and supply.
Mr. Burin Tangsilpaolarn, Project Development Manager of Suez (South East Asia said, Thailand has a poor understanding of recycling and the recyclable materials are not yet up to the standard quality, resulting in inadequate market acceptance.
The statistics of the Pollution Control Department showed that Thailand has abundant opportunities to develop recycling since merely 500,000 tons out of 2 million tons of plastic waste are recycled.
Building Awareness, Creating Knowledge
To reduce the waste amount in the long-term, education can advance the efforts at all levels. Mr. Varoon of Chula Zero Waste Project said that the Circular Economy-based waste management should be included in the school curriculum along with other actions. This also includes promoting knowledge at a household level to improve wet waste management.
“We have a lot of organic waste. The best way is to effectively manage it at a household level,” added Mr. Varoon.
Education must be provided to all levels from manufacturers, separators to recyclers. The campaign must be performed by all sectors in the society i.e., government offices or school. The immediate action is changing the consumer behaviors and properly disposing of waste and waste separation.
Prime Minister Accepting 4 Measures on Waste Management
The discussion from the experts and relevant parties has led to 4 approaches to tackle waste management to the prime minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha which include infrastructure overhaul to support waste management, promoting the business sector to manufacture products conducive to recycling and responsible scrap management, raising public awareness and strict law enforcement and penalties.
The symposium has reinforced the importance of participation in waste management — all sectors: consumer, collector, recycler, press, school, or government — are related to the issue. To build success and sustainability, it requires the cooperation of all parties.
We are waste. We need to manage ourselves first so we can handle waste surrounding us effectively.
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