Bamboo barges battle plastic pollution in Bangkok

Photo courtesy of The Ocean Cleanup

To tackle Thailand’s plastic pollution crisis, a pioneering project has been launched on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok.

Black flies scattered as plastic waste cascaded from bamboo conveyor belts onto solar-powered barges, marking a significant step towards cleaner waters.

Dubbed the “interceptor,” this innovative boat-like structure, trailing a floating barrier, utilises the river’s currents to guide plastic debris into the waiting jaws of the barge. Spearheaded by the Ocean Cleanup project, founded by Boyan Slat in 2013, the initiative aims to stem the tide of synthetic waste flooding into the world’s oceans.

“The Chao Phraya is the largest source of plastic pollution in the Gulf of Thailand. It’s crucial for both the environment and the economy to tackle this issue head-on.”

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After two years in the making, the Bangkok project stands as Ocean Cleanup’s fifth endeavour in Southeast Asia, a collaborative effort with local businesses and officials. Through meticulous research with Chulalongkorn University, the project pinpointed optimal locations amidst the river’s sprawling currents.

Positioned strategically where numerous canals converge with the main river, bamboo-slatted treadmills transport gathered waste onto the barge. From there, bright blue skips ferry the debris ashore for responsible disposal by local authorities, reported UK Daily Mail.

Penchom Saetang from EARTH Thailand highlighted the importance of addressing chemical pollutants alongside plastic waste.

“Removing plastic is crucial, but tackling chemical pollutants is equally vital for restoring the river’s health.”

In related news, wildfires persist in northern Thailand, contributing to a surge in air pollution despite recent downpours. As of Monday, Mae Hong Son recorded 6,646 wildfires this year, predominantly in the districts of Mueang Mae Hong Son, Pai, and Mae Sariang. This has led to Mae Hong Son exceeding safe levels of airborne particulates for 38 consecutive days.

In other news, Thailand’s foremost petrochemical producer by capacity, PTT Global Chemical Plc (PTTGC), is broadening its recycling operations with a focus on opaque plastic containers, primarily bottles. This endeavour is part of the company’s newly introduced campaign aimed at fostering eco-friendly habits among the youth.

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Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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