We all have a part to play in solving Thailand’s urgent waste problem

This is a guest post by Rachaya Kulnapongse, Head of Sustainability, dtac.

When it comes to waste, it is the plastics at sea that generate the largest headlines in Thailand. In 2018, the story of a whale that washed ashore in Songkhla gripped the nation. After it died an agonizing death, the postmortem revealed the poor beast had starved to death, its stomach filled with 80 plastic bags. A year later, a 10km long island of trash floating in the Gulf of Thailand again provided an all too vivid reminder of waste’s impact on the oceans.

By contrast, the waste accumulating in Thailand’s landfills is often ignored, despite being a major source of air, soil and water pollution. According to the Pollution Control Department, solid and hazardous waste in Thailand increased by 15 percent over the past decade. Bangkok alone produces 4.84 million tons a year, accounting for 17 percent of landfills in the country. Around 30 percent of solid waste is managed and disposed of sustainably, while the rest is added to landfills which grow larger every day.

The growth of waste is global, driven by rapid urbanization, growing global populations and overconsumption in high-income countries. It leads to air, water and soil pollution, in addition to clogging waterways and creating unsanitary conditions for those processing and living near the trash. Moreover, waste contributes to greenhouse gas emissions of both carbon-dioxide gas from incineration and methane emissions from landfills—a gas 30 times more potent than carbon-dioxide when it comes to trapping heat in the atmosphere.

To improve on its waste problems, Thailand lacks sustainable management and strong collaboration among stakeholders including local authorities and waste processing plots. The lack of attention to efficient waste treatment has led to open-air, roadside and empty-lot dumps popping up around major cities.

dtac, as a major connectivity provider, is committed to empowering societies through the use of digital technologies. In so doing, we cannot ignore the impact of our own environmental footprint. By implementing the Environmental Management System (EMS), e-waste and general waste is one of the major potential environmental risks in our business operations.  Indeed, dtac produced 281 tons of general waste in 2019. Moreover, dtac collected 213,476 pieces electronic waste, which can contain hazardous chemicals and heavy metals.

dtac is therefore committing to a zero landfill target by 2022 to ensure that both e-waste and general waste are managed and recycled properly. In addition to transparently reporting on our waste, we are also seeking a broader collaboration with stakeholders in government and the waste industry to raise standards for waste disposal in Thailand.

In responsibly addressing our role in Thailand’s waste problem, dtac is tackling the issue on two fronts. Seventy nine percent of our electronic waste is from upstream operations, such as network equipment, office equipment and laptop, while the remainder is produced downstream, mostly in the form of the mobile devices we sell. Both must be processed sustainably.

dtac will therefore use our strong position as a major organization to ensure we contribute positively to our community and help slash the amount of waste produced in Thailand. We also believe everyone can play a role in supporting this ambition. To engage our employees with our efforts, dtac is launching waste sorting at its headquarters this month, so that every employee can be part of the Thailand’s waste solution. Waste affects us all, and it is only with a broad engagement that we will reduce its impact on society.

This feature is a part of the “No Time To Waste” series, on waste, the environment and climate change.