- Plastic waste, including discarded takeout containers, masks, and gloves, shot up 62% in Bangkok since the coronavirus pandemic broke out.
- Thailand is one of five countries, along with Indonesia, the Philippines, China, and Vietnam, that produce half of the plastic in the world’s oceans.
- But the pandemic pollution problem isn’t limited to just Thailand – coronavirus-related litter is washing up all around the world.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Environmentalists in Thailand are trying to come up with creative solutions to the country’s growing problem of plastic waste.
This plastic is being shredded to go right into the ground — to build roads.
At a factory in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Professor Wechasawan Lakas is turning Thailand’s plastic into colorful slabs used to pave roads.
Lakas says that he receives 10 to 20 boxes of packages every day. “Approximately, maybe three tons per month and 40 tons per year. All people of Thailand send it to me,” he said.
He won’t be running out of plastic to use anytime soon. This year, plastic waste in Thailand skyrocketed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
As people stay home during the lockdown, waste from food deliveries has increased — and the plastic has ended up clogging landfills and canals.
“The percentage of recycling is lower than normal,” Wijarn Simachaya, the president of the Thailand Environment Institute, told Reuters. “People are aware of the disease. That’s why their behavior has changed. They just throw plastic away. That’s why we have lots of plastic at this period of time.”
In Bangkok alone, the amount of plastic waste increased 62% in March and April compared to the same time last year, according to the Thailand Environment Institute.
Source: Thailand Environment Institute
It feels like a setback, since the government has been trying to curb the plastic problem. Thailand is one of five places, along with Indonesia, the Philippines, China, and Vietnam, that produce half of the plastic in the world's oceans.
Source: Ocean Conservancy
In January, Thailand banned plastic bags in grocery and retail stores.
But the pandemic pollution problem isn't just limited to food delivery in Thailand. An increase in plastic waste has been observed all over the world.
"I would say every single one of us is responsible," Gary Stokes, cofounder of marine conservation organization OceansAsia, told Reuters. "Every single of us can make a difference and make a change."
Medical waste, including protective equipment, has been washing up on shores in Hong Kong.
And divers have found masks and gloves floating around the sea in France.
"It's completely new," said Laurent Lombard, founder of French nonprofit Opération Mer Propre. "We didn't have this before. It was exceptional to find a glove, and I had never seen a mask before. It's a new type of pollution."
In Thailand, former Olympic windsurfer and environmentalist Amara Wichithong says that everyone needs to do their part.
She's been paddling out in the waters of Pattaya to collect, sort, and recycle trash before it gets pulled out into the ocean.
"As long as we, humans, don't change our behaviors or still lack awareness, even if the virus stays on with us for the next 10 years, we wouldn't be able to conserve the sea," she said.