A movement sparked by one man’s passion has transformed the waste-clogged village of Wangwa, Thailand into an environmental and social success story. The effort united government, industry, schools, and villagers to improve local health and livelihoods by sorting and recycling trash that overwhelmed the community.

Welcome to Wangwa, Thailand in 2013: 500 families squeezed between piles of ever-growing trash. Filth and foul odors. No waste management or hygiene. Air pollution and sick children. Foraging dogs and rats. People fleeing to escape the waste crisis they had unintentionally created. Then one village leader said, “Enough.”

Sayan Rungreaung led community committee members to find a waste solution that would allow their village to survive and thrive. The team’s first program asked each household to segregate organic waste, and soon, 18 tons were being separated monthly, fed to animals, and used as fertilizer.

Soon the municipal government and private sector joined the effort, helping to provide facilities, equipment, and roads necessary to launch the recycling initiative. An education campaign involving teachers, schools, and door-to-door instruction took awareness and action to the next level. Before long, families were also collecting their recyclable waste and bringing it to sell at a center each month.

In 2018, the Public-Private Partnership for Plastics (PPP) was launched to help the Thai government achieve their environmental goals with resources and funding from Dow and other leading companies in Thailand such as SCG and PTT Global Chemical. Through workshops on how to segregate each type of plastic and a successful network of local authorities, communities, and recycling businesses, Wangwa families developed a new mindset – plastic is too valuable to waste. By 2019, plastic waste sent to landfills was down 20% and the program aims to lower it to zero by 2022. Today, Wangwa’s plastics are sorted, recycled, and transformed into new products which in turn are used and recycled again—creating a never-ending circular economy that curbs waste entering the environment.

To read the full story, visit https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/03/partner-content-thailand-how-local-teamwork-transforms-plastic-waste-into-value/.
Author: Susan Daugherty, National Geographic
Photo: Dow