ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Recycling works in Bangkok community
In a Bangkok community, a cooperative is changing the old image of rag pickers and helping the recycling effort.
A member of the waste bank writes a receipt. The bank pools the waste collected from members and increases their bargaining power with factories and antique dealers interested in buying it.. Mr. Peeratorn Seneewong is the chairman of a community recycled waste collection group whose members were previously homeless and living under flyovers. They have all pursued careers in waste collection for at least 10 years.
In 2003, they set up a "waste bank" to pool the waste collected from members and increase their bargaining power with factories and antique dealers interested in buying it.
The bank buys the waste from villagers at the same prices they used to get from selling it to factories and dealers themselves. It then resells the waste to factories, usually at a profit thanks to the greater bargaining power.
Boosted by higher cumulative gains and profits, the waste bank eventually registered itself as a cooperative selling products for daily use.
The decor may not be as beautiful as a7-Eleven store, but the new cooperative shop enjoyed a beautiful start, allowing residents to barter their recycled waste for consumer goods. Profit-sharing from the lucrative activities of the bank and cooperative has afforded everyone in the community a better life including life insurance coverage, capital for merit-making and funeral ceremonies, low-interest loans and elderly care.
Nowadays, this "three-wheeled-bicycle community" comprising 400 members from 140 families is regarded as a model for successful cooperation between private companies involved in glass, mirrors, packaging and consumer products and communities campaigning for recycled waste management.
Through the cooperative, private companies offer relevant updated information on metal prices, recyclable paper, plastics, bottles, glass, collection and storage apparatus, sanitary masks, stationery and even accounting methods.
In addition, consumer product manufacturers are willing to sell their goods at cost to the co-operative.
Mr. Peeratorn said community earnings amount to 200 baht (US$6.50) per family per day. This may be lower than the daily minimum wage for general labour, but the families are also entitled to other perks from the co-operative such as low-interest loans and assistance for funeral expenses as well as five kilogrammes of white rice given to the elderly each year, he said.
More importantly, it is a means of self-employment.
The Pollution Control Department said Thailand produced 14.6 million tonnes of all types of waste in 2004, rising to 15.1 million tonnes in 2009 _ 50% decomposable organic compounds, 42% recyclable waste such as glass, steel, paper and plastics, 3% hazardous waste and the rest construction materials and scrap.
A department report shows only 3-3.1 million tonnes of recyclable waste actually undergoes recycling each year, while another 3.2 million tonnes are simply buried.
Recycled waste is worth an estimated 20 billion baht a year, says Yuthtapong Wattanalapa, director of the Thailand Institute of Packaging and Recycling Management for a Sustainable Environment (TIPMSE). It could generate twice that amount for countries capable of recycling all of it.
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