What a waste: reflections on rubbish and recycling in Asia

koh lanta phra ae beach rubbish

 

koh lanta beach rubbish phra ae long beach

I’ve been thinking about waste quite a lot.

It all started when we packed up our house back home. Moving, I find, always generates a lot of waste. Wasted food, or perhaps wasted money spent on eating out during moving. And, of course, all the stuff that you never quite got around to throwing out, that now urgently needs to be disposed of.

Then there was the flying. The packaged meals, the individually wrapped blankets and headphones and anything else you can think of.

After that, we hit Asia, where waste disposal is a work in progress. We don’t have nearly enough public recycling bins on the streets at home, but at least some exist. Not so here. The amount of water bottles alone that must pile up is mind boggling.

As we travelled through Thailand, we saw too many dumps, recyclable materials all mixed in. On Koh Lanta, one of the quieter islands, there was detritus right on the shoreline, marring an otherwise picturesque setting. Rubbish piles randomly dotted the pavements, next to dwellings, even.

Simply by way of being there, we were further bound to add to it all, with our countless empty water bottles (recyclable! At home, at least) and our plastic containers from our (very few) takeaway meals. I really feel that making the tap water drinkable would make an immense difference – both in terms of the health benefits of clean drinking water for all, and in terms of the plastic saved.

Worst of all was when we embarked on a whirlwind four-island day trip, culminating with lunch on the picturesque and remote Koh Ngai, the remains of which would either probably be dumped somewhere there or ferried over to a larger island to be dumped.

In Koh Lanta I briefly spotted a sign tucked down a quiet alley in the township – something about supporting the island’s first recycling facility with the Skip bin hire Perth. The sooner the better, or there may not be a whole lot left worth preserving.

But hey, at least I’ve finally used up all my sample size shampoos/moisturisers. Those sachets have finally been put to good use on our travels.

 

12 thoughts on “What a waste: reflections on rubbish and recycling in Asia

  • Reply Alex @ ifs ands & butts June 17, 2013 at 08:49

    Always such a shame to see! If there’s one thing Germany has got done – it’s recycling!

  • Reply Stephanie June 17, 2013 at 09:01

    Out of curiosity, do these countries have laws like the United States’s Clean Water Act? I hope that they will have them soon! It’s too bad to see that even the locals aren’t drinking tap water!

  • Reply Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies June 17, 2013 at 10:37

    Oh no, what a waste! Is it that they don’t have the infrastructure to deal with it or that there’s no culture that says “littering is bad”? Or I suppose, both?

  • Reply Sense June 17, 2013 at 11:02

    I suppose they have bigger fish to fry than recycling for now…gotta make sure people are fed first. 🙁 I agree that having clean tap water would be a great first move to tackle both human health and waste issues. I think people forget that ‘reduce’ and ‘reuse’ comes before ‘recycling,’ though!

    In comparison with the US (and other first world countries I’ve visited), I’ve always thought that NZ was the best I’ve ever seen by far–EXTREMELY clean and very much promoting recycling, at least in terms of having bins in the streets. It’s great that we’ll soon have organic waste bins at home, too!

  • Reply Jennifer June 17, 2013 at 19:07

    My partner Ben is also from New Zealand and he was shocked at the waste in india and se asia. I think when you come from such a clean developed country it is even more shocking. In my experience NZ has heaps of bins, public toilets and anyone who threw rubbish on the floor would be looked at in disgust.

  • Reply Debt and the Girl June 18, 2013 at 02:27

    I hate seeing waste too. Did some spring cleaning on our apartment and it was amazing to see how much junk was everywhere. It was nauseating. Good to have all that stuff gone though.

  • Reply anna June 18, 2013 at 03:31

    I hate waste, too, and it was such a drastic change when I traveled from ultra-clean Japan to really polluted Thailand (mostly with the traffic). Definitely a downside with traveling to see the latter.

  • Reply Megan June 18, 2013 at 18:16

    The trash situation in Thailand was definitely a huge shock to me, too – though not wholly unexpected. I do suppose they have bigger things to worry about in many areas, but in places that have a big influx of tourist dollars, I would hope that money could be found to handle waste appropriately. It may even be a cultural thing, barely even thought of as negative.

  • Reply cantaloupe June 18, 2013 at 20:57

    I don’t know the reasons the water isn’t drinkable where you were, but I do know that here in the UAE it is not actually a good idea to make the water drinkable. Desalination is insanely disastrous for the environment. The water around the UAE is soooo much worse than it used to be because of the huge amount of desalination going on. It’s also quite expensive. All in all, much better idea to make the water ok for cleaning and cooking, rather than go all the way to drinkable.

    Recycling is also debatable. Studies have proven that recycling plastic is almost always worse for the environment than just throwing it in landfill.

  • Reply Manda June 21, 2013 at 01:27

    Ah, all that plastic bottle waste is something I am hugely familiar with as the drinking water isn’t safe in China, either. I don’t recall trash/waste being a big eyesore when I was in Thailand, but the beach I was at was quiet and not a favorite with the gap year/spring break types so perhaps that helped with that.

    • Reply eemusings June 21, 2013 at 17:35

      Lanta was basically deserted, actually, so I hate to think what busy beaches like Samui must have looked like.

  • Reply London, how do I love thee? | NZ Muse January 12, 2014 at 16:28

    […] recycling. Oh yes. After Asia, I did a little happy dance after seeing not just public bins and recycling bins, but separate bins […]

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