Lat Phrao Canal Cleanup project moving forward through 2nd Year

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The Coca-Cola Foundation provides support to TerraCycle Thai Foundation to continue efforts to reduce flow of plastic waste from rivers into oceans and establish proper waste sorting behavior in communities

Globally, plastic waste pollution has become a serious threat to the rivers and oceans over the years and Thailand cannot avoid blame as one of the world’s worst marine polluters. According to the Pollution Control Department (PCD), Thailand generated about 4.23 million tonnes of mismanaged waste in 2020. More people were forced to Work-From-Home due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the single use plastic waste has risen due to the demand of online food delivery and e-commerce, especially in the major provinces. About 80% of the generated waste leaks into our fragile aquatic environment.

In the past few years, there have been collaborative efforts to clean up canals (especially in Bangkok) because of the high positive potential impacts on the environment, health, transport, and tourism, among other things.

The Lat Phrao Canal Cleanup project has been one of the most successful cases to be highlighted as it has not only reduced the amount of plastic waste from polluting Thailand’s aquatic ecosystems but also driven behavioral change among local communities for better waste management.

The Lat Phrao Canal Cleanup project is one among the nine sites located in various parts of the world under the co-funded project by the Benioff Ocean Initiative at the University of California Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute and The Coca-Cola Foundation, the global philanthropic arm of The Coca-Cola Company. It is operated through a partnership between TerraCycle Thai Foundation, a division of the U.S.-based TerraCycle Global Foundation, and the Department of Drainage and Sewerage (DDS), Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) with the mutual goal of helping stem the flow of waste into the oceans.

The Lat Phrao Canal was deliberately chosen by local key stakeholders as it represents a large polluted canal in need of additional clean up initiatives in addition to the existing efforts of the local authorities and other organizations.

The canal clean-up project implemented by the TerraCycle Thai Foundation began in June 2020. The project aims to collect the waste directly from the Lat Phrao Canal (12.56 km long) leveraging on two “River Plastic Traps” to capture waste directly from the canal located in central Bangkok linking the Saen Saeb Canal, the Song Canal, and the Chao Phraya River.

The waste collection is operated five days a week by the workers hired from the local community and collected more than 145 tonnes of aquatic waste from these two devices and more than 63 tonnes from canal pickups from June 2020 to June 2021. This also means the project has helped divert more waterborne plastics than ever away from entering the Chao Phraya River in one year.

It is not just about the waste collection. The canal cleanup project focuses on how to properly manage the collected waste through waste sorting and recycling. The collected waste will go through a drying process prior to the waste sorting in preparation for recycling. From the river waste collection data recorded throughout the first year of operations, more than 83% of the collected river waste was non-recyclable, including 46.8% of organic waste and 36.6% of non-recyclable plastics such as plastic bags and single-use foam containers.

The non-recyclable materials such as contaminated waste will be managed through waste-to-energy (W2E) processing to generate electricity at the W2E plants located in Bangkok. The process of generating energy is environmentally friendly; post-industrial air quality, noise level, and water quality are all within the regulated standard while the ash and residue are under further study to harness any of its possible future benefits.

Meanwhile, the recyclable items, which contributed to only 16.4% of the collected river waste (plastic 8.4%, glass 7.1% and metal 0.9%), were able to have another life. The TerraCycle Thai Foundation has also worked with local waste processing companies to build a supply chain that can convert and transform plastic waste into new innovative items such as community playgrounds, recycled packaging for new consumer goods, and even new products like frisbees and beaded bracelets which are now available in the US market.

All the proceeds from selling frisbees and beaded bracelets entirely go back to the river cleanup operation; each product sold funds the collection and recycling of 20 lbs. (9 kg.) of waste directly from the waterways; preventing it from entering our fragile aquatic environment.

The social component is another key focus of the canal cleanup project; to raise awareness among the community members and to promote a positive behavioral change around waste management and prevention; a sustainable solution to prevent it from entering the waterways. After progress in the first year of operations, the project is making a social impact in many positive ways. It has not only created a clearer and healthier environment for over 7,000 households alongside the canal, but the project also provided safe and stable jobs for 15 people in the local Lat Phrao Canal community.

The canal cleanup project has already provided education and training opportunities around proper waste management (at the household level) to about 700 people through workshop at the material recovery center, drawing more participants who are becoming aware of global ocean waste crisis.

Saadia Madsbjerg, President, The Coca-Cola Foundation said, “The Coca-Cola Foundation believes the biggest difference can be made when business, government and civil society with shared values join hands and work towards the same goal – which is precisely the case with this project.”

“The project has come so far from its origins. After one year of operations, it has already been able to develop a better waste management system in the local communities, which has resulted in the Lat Phrao Canal becoming a clearer and cleaner waterway. We are also glad to know that more people are aware of the importance of proper waste disposal and have become a part of the project to protect their communities and the environment.” Nuntivat Thamhatai, Secretary-General of The Coca-Cola Foundation Thailand said.

“The achievement of this program is not only about the volume of river waste we collect but about more community members taking part in sustainable solutions to make their community a better place. The local communities gain more understanding of our role and mission while our staff (who are also local people) see a clean environment as vital to them, and this project will help them achieve their ambition,” James Scott, Executive Director, TerraCycle Thai Foundation said.

“With The Coca-Cola Foundation’s support and broad key stakeholders’ partnership, we aim to scale up our river plastic trap operations in Thailand and expand community engagement to ensure more people here in Thailand are aware of the importance of recycling and become a part of the solution to effectively tackle marine plastic waste locally and globally.”

As part of the total shared funding of $11 million over three years for nine sites around the world, this will allow the Lat Phrao Canal cleanups project to operate continuously for another two years to further help stem the flow of waste into the oceans and drive key changes in people’s behavior around sorting waste at home while maximizing recycling. In 2022, the TerraCycle Foundation Thailand will introduce a new website featuring products made from recycled river waste for interested people in Thailand.

The achievement of the Lat Phrao Canal Cleanup project is just the beginning of solving the issue of waste in Bangkok’s canals sustainably but addressing this huge global challenge still requires greater efforts to make a substantial difference.

The Coca-Cola Foundation is the global philanthropic arm of The Coca-Cola Company. Since its inception in 1984, The Foundation has awarded more than $1 billion in grants to support sustainable community initiatives around the world. For more information about The Coca-Cola Foundation, please visit: www.coca-colacompany.com/ourcompany/the-coca-cola-foundation

Benioff Ocean Initiative, based at UC Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute, merges science and technology to improve ocean health. The initiative was brought to life in 2016 through a $10 million gift from Marc and Lynne Benioff to promote science-based ocean problem solving at UC Santa Barbara. For more information about Benioff Ocean Initiative, please visit: https://boi.ucsb.edu/.

TerraCycle Thai Foundation

The TerraCycle Thai Foundation was founded in 2019 under the umbrella of the TerraCycle Global foundation. The foundation’s mission is to develop and implement programs that reduce or eliminate aquatic plastic waste from polluting Thailand’s aquatic ecosystems. The foundation works with local communities and key stakeholders to develop multi partner solutions to intercept aquatic plastic waste in canals and rivers.

Their programs also work to educate and bring awareness to better waste management strategies, and to engage innovative solutions to reuse waste materials so we can have plastic free waterways throughout Thailand.

To learn more about The TerraCycle Thai Foundation, please visit www.terracyclefoundation.org.

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