Channels overflowing with packaging, landfills are flooded with bags: in Thailand, one of the biggest polluters of the oceans in the world, the waste plastics have exploded since the pandemic with the boom of the deliveries of the meals at home.
A boat from the Bangkok city hall advance in the canals of the capital. Objective: harvest a maximum of detritus that threaten to clog the sewers of this megalopolis of 11 million inhabitants.
Bottles, bags, containers of any kind cluttering the narrow channels, rendering the navigation difficult. Mixed vegetation and the food, most of the detritus will be impossible to recycle.
The waste plastics “have almost doubled in urban areas from January to march. In April, year on year, they have jumped by 62% just in Bangkok. The situation is worrying,” said Wijarn Simachaya, president of the thailand institute of the environment, questioned by the AFP.
China, Indonesia and Vietnam — and other major polluters of the oceans — have not published statistics for this period, while in Japan, this type of litter has increased in the large urban areas, but has been ultimately better recycled.
In question, in Thailand: deliveries of meals-on-wheels. Already very popular in normal times by a population that kitchen bit at home, they have exploded with the containment and the closure of the restaurants.
The craze continues, albeit to a lesser extent, in spite of the progressive reopening of the country, which are approximately 3000 cases of COVID-19 and less than 60 deaths.
“The pollution of plastic may kill more than the coronavirus” in Thailand, sighs Ralyn Satidtanasarn, Lilly said, an ecologist at the us-thai 12 year-old, inspired by the Swedish Greta Thunberg.
6e polluter of the oceans
The kingdom is already the sixth largest polluter of the oceans.
And the images of whales, dolphins or turtles found dead in recent months, the stomach lined with plastic, have shocked.
Pointed out, the government has banned in the beginning of the year the bags single-use in supermarkets, a small revolution for a country that consumed an average of eight per day and per capita, and twelve times more than in the european Union.
The goal was clear: reduce their number by nearly a third since the end of the year.
In 2020, this fight seems lost in advance. The waste plastics may even increase to 30%, according to the thailand institute of the environment.
“The government is fully aware of this situation, but prefers to focus on the coronavirus,” sighs Lilly. When school resumes, it will dry up courses again to start on his paddle clean through the channels.
A drop of water. The country has not recycled last year, that 19% of the two million tonnes of rubbish plastic it has generated.
Many of the new waste products during the pandemic “will fail in rivers and oceans”, is worried about Tara Buakamsri of Greenpeace Thailand.
This crisis “has cruelly highlighted the need for effective management from the private homes, hotels or shops to factories for reprocessing”, he says.
The government has put in place last year an ambitious roadmap for 100% recyclable plastic to the horizon 2027. But the absence of political will, some observers consider unrealistic.
Monk’s Robes, masks, shoes made out of recycled plastic, the individual initiatives are multiplying to make up for deficiencies.
Wechsawan Lakas, an assistant professor in a university in Chiang Mai (north), leads a small team that manufactures pavers-based plastic bags and sand to build roads.
They are “lighter to carry, more solid, they can withstand from 100 to 400 years to decompose”, he says. “With a little funding, we could produce 500 per day.”
But his project does not receive any public support.
Petrochemicals, one of the main opportunities is the production of plastics, is generating tens of thousands of jobs and is still all-powerful in the kingdom.
Face it, “difficult to have a real political will. Changing attitudes will take years,” says the professor.