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There’s money in trash [video]

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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There’s money in trash [video] | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: The island’s monsoon-season seas continue to plaster popular beaches with rubbish, while the growing urban environment produces an average of 729 tonnes of trash a day.

Though deemed unsightly by expats, locals and tourists, the mass of junk does provide a living for numerous individuals, families and communities.

“About one ton of trash is swept onto two of Phuket’s most popular beaches – Kata and Karon – every day,” said a Kata-Karon Municipality Environmental Department officer, who declined to be named.

“We send people out to collect the trash from the beach daily. Though we don’t record exactly how much is collected, it feels like much more trash is washing up this year and more people are talking about it. I think this problem will continue to grow.

“We really can’t control the beach trash because it comes from the sea; all we can do is pick it up and encourage people not to litter.”

However, some of what is being picked up has a great deal of value to those in the business of scavenging for recyclables.

The profits from reusable items and recyclables on the island swings big business money of hundreds of thousands of baht a month. Even entire communities, such as Plai Laem Saphan Hin and Klong Koh Pee, continue to support their families by picking through trash.

Garbage collectors working in the Phuket City Municipality area, such as 54-year-old Paitoon Jeraton, separate recyclables and electronics from the rest of the rubbish during their routes. Five trucks service the area two times a day, collecting about 144 tonnes of rubbish. From that, the municipality workers are able to glean about 4,000 baht each.

“We go to houses, restaurants, markets, hospitals and hotels to collect rubbish,” said Mr Paitoon, who has been working as a garbage collector for about 28 years. “Basically, we collect tin cans, plastic bottles, pieces of plastic, metal, cables and cardboard.”

With years of experience, garbage collectors know how to dismantle electronics, separating what can be re-sold and what is hazardous to dump. Hazardous waste is properly disposed of at the incinerator, Mr Paitoon confirmed.

The items saved from rubbish bins are sold to small recyclable collectors who are able to bundle the sorted items and re-sell them to production factories in the region. However, one business on the island has gone beyond just being a middle man in the world of recyclables.

BIG BUSINESS

“My father always said that trash is the gold that you can find everywhere,” said Kanin Raksaraj, owner of the private garbage-collecting company Thanasup Recycle Phuket.

The company was founded about a decade ago during the construction of the Tesco Lotus in Samkong.

“They hired my father to transfer all of the debris from the construction site to the landfill, which is when it occurred to my father to also start transferring rubbish,” Mr Kanin said.

After having won the business of a number of hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and government offices, Thanasup Recycle Phuket was able to start turning large piles of trash into piles of cash.

“We collect about five tonnes of trash per day and have about eight to 10 workers sorting and cleaning it so that it can be sold to a recycling plant in Songkhla,” Mr Kanin said.

His employees are paid between 10,000 and 12,000 baht per month.

“After washing and separating the plastics based on quality, they are pressed into a cube so that they can be transferred to the factory in Sadao, where they melt the plastic so that it can be used again,” Mr Kanin said. “Plastic that is too dirty to be cleaned up will be pressed into a different cube and sent to a factory in Bangkok.”

Glass, however, is separated by color, ground into small pieces and then sold to a factory in Thalang for about one to two baht per kilogram.

“There are some items that people don’t think about having any value at all, such as old pastries and bread, that we are able to re-sell to farms to use for fish or duck food,” Mr Kanin said.

However, high quality plastics, worth about 47 baht per kilogram, and tin cans, which fetch about 40 baht per kilogram, are the real bread winners for the company.

“We are the only company that I am aware of that provides private rubbish pickup services that combine sorting recyclables to such a great profit,” Mr Kanin explained. “We make hundreds of thousands of baht per month.”

What cannot be sold is put back into the dump trucks to be taken to the Phuket incinerator at a cost of 530 baht per tonne. Hazardous waste costs 22 baht per kilogram and infectious waste costs 15 baht per kilogram, confirmed Prachoom Suriya, chief of the Environmental Division of the Phuket City Municipality.

Unfortunately, not all plastics fetch so much money. The Paktai Plastic Factory in Songkhla, not the one that Mr Kanin sells his recyclables to, offers 11 to 25 baht per kilogram for lower-quality plastics.

“We buy plastic bottles of various grades,” said a Paktai Plastic Factory representative, who declined to be named. “We then melt the plastic and create plastic beads.”

The beads are sold in 25-kilogram bags at a profit of about 1.04 baht to 1.52 baht per kilogram.

MOUNTING DAMAGE

Though numerous families rely on the trash produced by the island daily, the massive increase continues to be a cause of concern for government officials.

In May this year, it was re-confirmed that the two operational incinerators at the Saphan Hin landfill – a third one has been offline since 2012 – have a total burning capacity of 700 tonnes a day, falling short of the amount of rubbish produced on the island.

And though a 530-million-baht budget to fix the original, defunct incinerator has already been approved, the project will not be completed until April 2017.

“The bottom line is that people need to work on creating less trash in their daily lives. No matter what, some trash will be created. But we have to make sure we are dealing with it properly and not just dumping it into the ocean,” said Meechai Theerapongpaisan, acting chief of the Environment Division of the Phuket City Municipality.

“As the island continues to expand and develop, we will do our best to manage the massive amounts of waste. However, people must join our efforts, preserve the beauty of our island and set an example for the millions of tourists who visit our province every year.”

BOTTOM OF THE TRASH PILE

As the island’s trash goes through the hands of garbage collectors, small-scale recycling operators or even a company such as Thanasup Recycle Phuket, it also continues to help feed many more mouths.

Members of the Plai Laem Saphan Hin community, comprising about 100 households, and Klong Koh Pee community, comprising 171 households, live abreast of Phuket’s swelling landfill – deriving their livelihood from what can be found among the heaps of unburned trash.

“I make about 300 to 500 baht a day. Right now, times are tough, as there is a lot less trash to collect during low season and the municipality officers manage to burn most of the fresh trash before we have a chance to go through it,” said 43-year-old trash picker Suchart Ayuyeun. Mr Suchart has spent the last 30 years of his life in the small community of shacks at the landfill site.

“Many members of the community have the same job as I do. We collect plastic bottles, garbage bags, electric cables and pieces of metal.

“There are lucky days too, when I find some money or accessories, maybe even a ring or watch that I could sell for ten thousand baht.

“Those are rare days though,” he said with a laugh.

— Nattha Thepbamrung

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Weather

Strong wind and waves this morning closes Phuket’s beaches, one swimmer rescued

The Thaiger

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Strong wind and waves this morning closes Phuket’s beaches, one swimmer rescued | The Thaiger

Phuket’s Rawai Mayor, Aroon Solos, ordered all beaches in the area to close after a foreigner was rescued this morning after being unable to make it back to shore. The foreigner was swimming off Ao Sane beach, just north of the popular Nai Harn Beach, when lifeguards were sent out to help bring him back to shore. The recent weather has been partly attributed to Tropical Storm Noul as other beaches areas around Patong have been closed since Friday.

Mayor Aroon ordered both the Nai Harn and Ya Nui beaches closed until further notice.

Noul crossed over the Vietnamese coastline in the early hours of Friday morning and tracked westwards into Laos, then Thailand’s north east, dragging in moisture from the Indian Ocean and intensifying the south-west monsoon.

The Chief of the Cherngtalay Tambon says that, once weather is more stable, the island’s beaches will reopen.

“All beaches in our area, Surin Beach, Bang Tao beach and other beaches, are closed today. We will reopen them when the weather improves.” Strong winds have contributed to falling trees and power outages across the island with one tree falling on the island’s main traffic artery, Thepkasattri Road, blocking traffic.

Officials are also warning road travellers to drive carefully after a car reportedly flipped over yesterday during wet conditions. The Thai Meteorological Department has also re-issued a weather warning today, saying that Noul has been now downgraded from a Category 3 tropical storm to a tropical depression.

The remnants of Noul currently sit over the Kancanaburi province after surging through Thailand’s north eastern and central provinces earlier today.

“Strong wind waves are likely in the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. In the upper portion of both seas, the waves will be likely 2-4 meters high and more than 4 meters high in thundershowers. In the lower portion, the waves will be likely about 2 meters and in thundershower areas more than 3 meters high. All ships keep ashore through 20 September.”

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Thailand

Phuket residents going hungry after local government assistance runs out

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Phuket residents going hungry after local government assistance runs out | The Thaiger

Residents in Phuket, particularly those living in and around the west coast townships, are reportedly going hungry as the government’s municipal budget to provide food has been depleted. Despite efforts to revive tourism in the area, thousands of people are still in need of donated food to survive and continue to queue up for donated food every day. A public relations staff member at the Patong municipality says, sadly, there is no budget to do any more food handouts in the near future and that there is no word on when or if there will be any more handouts.

The Phuket Town Deputy Mayor told The Phuket News that there has only been 2 handouts since the pandemic struck the tourist-reliant area. One handout was in March while the last handout was in June with the mayor saying 28 million baht was spent in those 2 handouts. Meanwhile a number of foreign residents in the town have been providing supplies for food queues for many months to help the impoverished residents.

One Phuket expat says the majority of those affected in the Patong area are Burmese migrant workers, with long queues for private donations still being seen on the streets of Patong. Such private donations are a result of charity events that are being held across the island with the assistance of dedicated volunteers.

Like Thailand’s Mental Health Department, many are concerned about the impact that food insecurity is having on those struggling. According to the department, 2,551 people had killed themselves across Thailand in the first half of 2020, a 22 % increase, year on year. In response, the National Reform Committee on Labour was ordered on September 11 to issue an amnesty on all outstanding debts, while providing financial support anyone who remains unemployed on the island.

At a recent meeting, other requests were made that include the government giving incentives for more Thais to visit the island and to use social security funds and soft loans as support for local business owners. For now, the situation is grim as Phuket residents are resorting to relying on private charities for food donations.

Phuket’s vice governor Phichet saysd that Phuket has been badly affected by the Covid crises, and delivered 3 requests to the Senate Standing Committee on Tourism… to extend the financial support by the Social Security Office for a further 3 months, allow workers from other provinces to transfer their house registration to Phuket so the Phuket government can receive more funds to provide better care for them, and ask the Ministry of Labour to provide assistance to at least 1,000 unemployed in Phuket.

Whilst the government unveiled plans for a “Phuket Model” to revive tourism on the island, it came to nothing, despite a high power delegation of Ministers and Bangkok officials who visited Phuket 2 weekends ago.

One such charity is set to record a song by leading Phuket musicians with the hopes of continuing to help feed those in need on the island.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Weather

Heavy rain across the country this weekend – local forecasts

The Thaiger

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Heavy rain across the country this weekend – local forecasts | The Thaiger

Heavy rain is expected across much of Thailand over the next few days, mostly as a result of the intensity of a tropical storm crossing into Vietnam today, ‘Noul’, from the South China Sea. The low pressure cell will help intensify the effects of the south west monsoon too. But the remnants of the storm won’t “slam” into Northern Thailand as one news site claimed – rather it will be a lot of rain and increased winds. The storm is expected to cross into Thailand around the Mukdahan province some time early tomorrow,

Around the country, Saturday will be the worst with rains easing during Sunday. Thailand north east ‘Isaan’ provinces will be the worst affected as they are in the direct track of the storm as it crosses Vietnam, into Laos, and then crossing Thailand’s borders in the upper north east in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

Whilst tropical storm ‘Noul’ has been packing winds from 80 – 120 kilometres per hour as it reaches the central Vietnam coast areas, including popular tourist locations like Da Nang and Hoi An, the storm will continue to dissipate as it moves inland. The storm has been tracking across the South China Sea this week, gathering strength, in a west northwesterly direction.

Residents in the coastal town of Hoi An report that it rained continuously last night, with strong winds, and that they expect widespread flooding to be reported during the day.

The forecast for heavy rain in Bangkok will probably dampen some of the enthusiasm for tomorrow’s anti-government rally to be held in and around the Thammasat University Tha Prachan campus.

Here are the forecasts for Saturday and Sunday around the country…

Bangkok

Heavy rain across the country this weekend - local forecasts | News by The Thaiger

Phuket

Heavy rain across the country this weekend - local forecasts | News by The Thaiger

Chiang Mai

Heavy rain across the country this weekend - local forecasts | News by The Thaiger

Pattaya

Heavy rain across the country this weekend - local forecasts | News by The Thaiger

Khon Kaen

Heavy rain across the country this weekend - local forecasts | News by The Thaiger

Koh Samui

Heavy rain across the country this weekend - local forecasts | News by The Thaiger

Read more about Thailand’s annual monsoons HERE.

SOURCE: weather.com

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