Renewed push to sort, recycle waste
City produces more than 8,000 tonnes of municipal waste per day
Despite its reputation of being one of the world's top tourist destinations, litter can literally be seen all over Bangkok.
According to the Department of Environment and Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) figures, the capital produces more than 8,000 tonnes of municipal waste every day.
Large quantities of the refuse are plastics and infectious medical waste that pose challenges to Bangkok's waste management infrastructure, with environmental experts suggesting the BMA must deal with the root causes of the problem.
Sujitra Vassanadumrongdee, a researcher from the Environmental Research Institute at Chulalongkorn University, believes the BMA should prioritise reducing waste at the source rather than just dealing with the aftermath.
Ms Sujitra said the BMA must pay for more equipment and a management system which would help people sort and separate waste before it is collected by local authorities.
"The city spends 7 billion baht each year on rubbish transfer and disposal, but its income from rubbish collection and recycling is only about 10-50 million baht per year," she said.
"Nevertheless, the growing amount of rubbish in Bangkok indicates the city's failure to solve the issue, while any recent decline is mostly attributable to the Covid-19 situation.
"If we solve the problem at its root, we could save money and even turn a profit from waste recycling," said Ms Sujitra.
Yet waste management should not be the sole domain of the BMA, Ms Sujitra said. Cooperation from the private sector and academics are also needed to come up with a more holistic solution.
The 50 district offices across the city must be empowered to deal with the issue, not just the BMA's Environment Department, although there seems to be a lack of budget for new initiatives, she said.
"The governor elected in the upcoming Bangkok gubernatorial election must consider waste separation as a key goal."
She suggested that BMA must set out a policy and investment plans. It should also consider measures to encourage efficient waste disposal such as fee discounts where people can reduce their rubbish output.
Penchom Saetang, director of Ecological Alert and Recovery-Thailand (EARTH) foundation, said wastewater is another big problem for Bangkok.
"With wastewater from chemicals we use in our daily lives accumulating, the ecosystem along the maritime routes will gradually deteriorate, affecting health and food chains," Ms Penchom said.
She urged candidates for the upcoming Bangkok gubernatorial election to underline the importance of environmental matters when canvassing.
Ms Penchom urged waste disposal sites, such as landfills or waste energy power plants, to beef up measures against pollution to prevent any impact on the local community.
She also urged the BMA to improve its city planning for sustainable growth by managing use of the land and environment, as well as keeping industrial zones separate.
"If we consider city planning in detail, we can see that people are at risk of harm caused by their surrounding environment and health. So I want the next governor to prioritise these areas," she said.
Meanwhile, Yim, 78-year-old shopkeeper near Onnut municipal waste management facility in Prawet district, said locals living around the district's waste management facility constantly have to tolerate strong smells from rotting waste and flies from the facility.
Waste collection trucks that go in and out all day, adding to the problem.
"The situation has improved in recent years, but the problems never go away," she said.
"We have no other place to go, so we have no choice but to live with these problems."