WITH ATTENTION focused on forest fires’ contribution to the air pollution choking upper Thailand, other outdoor burning – particularly farm scrub being torched – is coming under closer scrutiny. One community – Ban Paen Pong Chai, which covers 10 villages in Lampang’s Chae Hom district, has emerged as a shining example for others to follow.
Garbage-management measures introduced there have earned it recognition as a “zero-burning” locale.
No longer willing to passively watch a private firm’s garbage trucks litter the route to a foul-smelling dumpsite in Moo 7, residents and the Tambon Ban Sa Municipality in 2010 began disseminating information about waste issues and devising solutions.
Residents began separating different kinds of refuse in their homes, setting aside what was recyclable, hazardous wet and dry.
What could be recycled was sold to the municipality, with a committee monitoring the system, and the best garbage managers have been identified and rewarded every year since.
Wet trash was tackled with a “One household, one organic trashcan” scheme. Every householder got a plastic bucket full of holes to half-bury in the backyard, where food scraps and other forms of organic waste could be transformed into fertiliser.
There was no longer a need to burn fallen leaves. Instead, local wisdom was put to use – circling trees with a sa-wian, a fence of woven bamboo that catches falling leaves and twigs so they too can turn into fertiliser, right on the spot.
The sa-wian idea came from Ban Paen School director Yangyong Sung-ngam, whose house is something of a demonstration centre for other means of managing waste better.
The municipality buys the residents’ solid waste that can’t be recycled, such as pieces of cloth, plastic bags and milk cartons, and puts it through a 20-day process of material separation, disintegration and drying. The resulting debris is sold to SCG Lampang Co as refuse-derived fuel (RDF).
SCG vice president Chana Poomee said all SCG cement factories will pay Bt1,000 per tonne of solid waste and use the RDF to fire rotary kilns that require high heat of 1,450 degrees Celsius.
SCG Lampang built Ban Sa’s centre for managing unused materials in 2010, spending Bt3.8 million on construction and machinery.
Hazardous waste, such as light bulbs, batteries and pesticide containers, can’t be resold, so it has to be buried. The municipality provides residents with training and even a handbook and its workers collect the dangerous junk three times a year, in October, February and June.
Again, SCG Lampang handles the disposal, meeting safety requirements.
Ban Sa senior municipal clerk Napapanont Surintho said 300 families participated in the project in 2011, their contributions earning a combined Bt190,000. The number grew to 589 families the following year and the project netted Bt538,000 from the resale of waste.
“People see the benefits of community cleanliness, better health and environment – all because we come together to tackle the garbage issue right at the source, before it leaves the household,” Napapanont said.
Ban Paen Pong Chai (Moo 9), which has 149 households, won the municipality’s award for four consecutive years, said headman Winai Saipaeng. Its 120 participating families are fully adapted to separating and recycling waste.
“They even bring garbage home from outside the village because they know trash equals money,” he said. People are aware of the problem and ready to help solve it because everyone creates garbage, so it’s everyone’s problem to solve, Winai said.