Tackling Marine Plastics in Thailand, from Community-based Actions to Policy: A special day to keep “Koh Yao clean by our hands”
Located in Phang-nga province in the south of Thailand. Koh Yao is a dream destination for many travellers as it consists of pristine beaches, unspoilt coastline, rice fields, mountains, and forests. However, it is not surprising that the other side of island might be an unsightly image.
“There is a huge amount of waste on the island. In the past, we collected all the waste and took it to the landfill without sorting it. This problem cannot be ignored”, said a community member of the Prunai subdistrict, one of the three subdistricts of Koh Yao.
Tackling Marine Plastics in Thailand, from Community-based Actions to Policy
From August 2018 until present, IUCN Thailand implemented the project "Tackling Marine Plastics in Thailand, from Community-based Actions to Policy", with support from The Coca-Cola Foundation. The project aims to promote proper recycling at the local level in Koh Yao Noi subdistrict, Phang-nga province of Thailand, and drive instrumental change in people's behaviour towards solid waste management.
Koh Yao’s recycling model is unique because of the strong support of the Muslim community who live there and generate profits by selling the recyclable materials to a waste collector. These profits obtained will go towards the community funds and will be used for community health promotion. Community members acknowledge it as charity or, in the local word, “Nu-ree”.
The project was first implemented in Koh Yao Yai subdistrict and successfully generated 116,319 kilograms recyclable materials that were returned to the mainland in 2019. The project has engaged relevant stakeholders including local communities, health volunteers, small waste collectors, business entrepreneurs, and local authorities to take the necessary action to improve waste management policy and recycling practices in all targeted areas.
Given the high quantities of waste in other sub-districts, IUCN expanded the project to 3 subdistricts in Phang-nga province, including Koh Yao Yai, Koh Yao Noi, and Prunai, in attempts to prevent marine plastic pollution and promote significant changes in local policies on waste management within Thailand. By June 2022, the accumulative number of recyclable materials went up to 898,816 kg.
Keep Koh-Yao clean by our hands
To further enhance community participation and raise awareness about the project, IUCN, Coca-Cola Foundation and Haad Thip Public Company Limited developed the "Keep Koh-Yao clean by our hands" event in Koh Yao Noi subdistrict, Phang-nga Province, on 20 July 2022. On this event, the stakeholders gathered together and brought 5,562.7 kg. of recycled materials to the mainland recycling point, which were collected from households in the Koh Yao Noi subdistrict for over a month, including PET bottle, multicolour plastic, aluminium can, glass bottle, and paper.
The event was a way to broadcast a positive message about recycling practices, but also to encourage active participation from the stakeholders. As a result of the activities, the businesses who joined agreed to implement environmentally friendly recycling measures within their operations, while consumers improved their awareness on where and how to discard waste properly. Additionally, policymakers were made aware on the need to create effective waste management policies at the local and national level.
While the project “Tackling Marine Plastics in Thailand from Community-based Actions to Policy” will eventually come to an end, the waste will not be gone without the support and collective action of all stakeholders, including businesses and consumers who must continue to work together to promote effective waste management practices.