Thai Circular Economy: How to be Sustainable

July 5, 2023

Thai Circular Economy for a sustainable future

Image: Thai Circular Economy for a sustainable future

Do you feel that the world today is getting harder to live in? Do you feel that "living in the world today has become more difficult"?

When it rains, we ask ourselves "Will it flood?”. When driving to work in the rainy season, and it's raining heavily, we often wonder if our houses will be flooded. In the dry season, we have to be concerned whether there will be enough water.

In Bangkok and other cities, floods have become commonplace during the rainy season, flooding major streets throughout the city. Excessive rain certainly contributes to the issue but waste clogging up the drains is the main issue and it is a big issue in cities where a lot of people are concentrated in a relatively small space.

It's like we are in a "burning house", It's like our house is on fire, but we are oblivious; still sitting on the sofa, watching TV.

F.E.S Thailand presents "Circular Economy in Thailand”, a C.I. Talks Video Production hosted by Kanita Tambunlertchai, Ph.D. (Associate Professor, Faculty of Economics at Chulalongkorn University).

The Environmental Situation in Thailand: Ocean Plastic Waste

Let's look at the amount of plastic waste that goes into the sea. Asia takes the poll position as the world’s no.1 culprit. 80% of the world's ocean plastics come from Asia and within Asia.

Do you know how much plastic waste flows into the sea from Thailand alone? Thailand is responsible for more marine waste than the entire European continent. Thailand is among the top marine polluters.

One of the key concerns now is microplastics. When waste enters the sea, some of it will decompose. Plastic becomes small plastic beads. These are ingested by aquatic animals. When humans then consume those aquatic animals, plastic beads begin to accumulate in our bodies.

The Main Cause is our Economic Model.

The root of the problem is an economic model that we call "Linear Economy". It means we use natural resources to make finished products that are consumed. Once we are done with them, we throw them away. Hence, as the country grows and income rises, the amount of waste generated also increases.

Economic Growth = Increase in Waste.

This is why it's a problem. But there is an alternative economic model called "Circular Economy" which is an economy based on the principle of taking as little as we can from nature.

Produce. Consume. Recycle

This means reducing the amount of new materials entering the production and consumption cycle. For instance, when a problem arises with our clothes, we normally throw them away or turn them into rags. But in a circular economy, you fix or recycle them, and reuse them as much as possible.

In Viet Nam, there is an agricultural model called "Closed Loop Farming". They raise several types of animals while also cultivating crops. The system uses the animal dung as fertilizer for plants. They also raise ducks. And ducks act as pest control. Thus, the expense normally allocated to pesticides is reduced. Another byproduct is biogas which can also be used as energy.

Thailand and the Circular Economy.

Thailand has been promoting the BCG Economy for a while. It stands for Bio, Circular & Green Economy. It is a blend of the bio-economy, circular economy, and green economy. You can see that a circular economy is a key policy guiding the country's development.

The BCG Economy Model was born from analyzing global trends and Thailand's strengths. It presents a framework for us to develop our economy, focusing on:
"B" - Bio economy.
"C" - Circular economy.
"G" - Green economy.

By following this model, we will be able to advance sustainable economic development and free Thailand from the middle income trap.

F.E.S. Thailand Project: Fostering Motivation and Cooperation towards a Circular Economy.

A key project with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Thailand (F.E.S. Thailand) has been to motivate and raise support for shifting to a circular economy in Thailand. This has been a research project that will be published but is still in progress. Two seminars have been held in Thailand to brainstorm views from various sectors on the circular economy.

We are seeing the issue becoming more mainstream. Previously a few companies talked about sustainability. Now all companies, especially large ones, must embrace sustainability. We see this trend in the younger generation too. They are starting to call for more environmental responsibility.

Even Hollywood Stars are modeling sustainable fashion at the Oscars.

Circular Economy or Not

How can we know if what we do qualifies as a circular economy?

There are 3 key principles of a circular economy.
1. Reduce the use of new materials.
2. Prolong the lifespan of products.
3. Minimize the negative effects of production and consumption.

First, we have to reduce the use of natural raw materials. Second is to, where possible, retain the value and prolong the lifespan of products. Third, is to minimize the negative effects of production and consumption. This means reducing waste and pollution arising from production and consumption processes.

Why do we need to change now?

No one wants to live in a world full of PM2.5 dust where you have to wear a mask outside and have 2 or 3 air purifiers running inside. If we want a good climate, good water, and no waste pollution, but don't start working together today, it's possible that the situation will continue to get worse. If you bring your own bottle of water, that's already 1-2 bottles less of plastic waste.v

To start reusing in the circular economy, means we have to start sorting waste. If we don't separate it, we won't be able to save materials that can be reused, if they are all mixed together with other waste.

Everyone has been in the linear economy for a long time. Everything in our society is there to facilitate the linear economy. If you are interested in quality of life and want to leave a better world for our children, you must turn to the environment.

Thai Circular Economy: How to be Sustainable

How to start? Who has to change? Actually, the government is the crucial player. They can steer the country to be more environmentally friendly and more sustainable. Moreover, top of the agenda for every government should be to provide a good quality of life for their people. Therefore, if things don't improve, we have to ask whether the government has responded to the needs of the people.

We have to ask business people whether they want to be corporate leaders or losers. If your company has not started, the consequences may not be obvious now, but in the not too distant future, investors will ignore your business, favoring those that are sustainable.

You have to ask the people how they see their lives today compared to the past. Is it getting hotter? It's extremely hot in the summer while the rainy season brings a myriad of natural disasters. The dry season has become very dry. Do you want to live like this, living in constant fear of being flooded?

Look around you. How is the air quality? How much pollution is there? Is it clean or full of dust?

Do you really want to live like this?







Kanittha Tambunlertchai

Associate Professor, Chulalongkorn University

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