PHUKET’S new Governor Wichai Praisa-Ngob is determined to solve the island’s growing rubbish problems.
Earlier this month, he met with the director of the National Innovation Agency, Supachai Lorlowhakarn, and the Director General of the Department of Environment’s Quality Promotion, Orapin Wongchumpit, to work out ways to make Phuket ‘greener’.
They also discussed the ongoing problems with plastic bag dumping on the island.
Governor Wichai said people had become too used to the convenience of plastic bags.
The NIA and DEQP are joining forces to promote an intensive promotional campaign to curb the volumes of plastic bags littering Phuket.
From April 22 until June 8, the two agencies will urge people to look for alternative options to plastic bags.
The two visiting environmentalists were also keen to push plans to implement the use of bio-plastic bags and to teach children in schools the importance of recycling.
“There are many eco-conscious projects like the bio-plastic campaign, and the Green Phuket project,” said Khun Somchai.
In 2007, Patong Municipality introduced a 10 colour-coded system for recycling, designed to reduce the amount of rubbish sent to Phuket’s incineration plant.
The project was also intended to make money for Phuket residents, separating plastic from other types of waste.
Phuket’s beach vendors were able to make a little extra money by sorting through their plastic and glass bottles, but critics said the island’s recycling efforts needed to be stepped up.
Khun Kriengkrai Sae-Puang, a mechanical engineer at Phuket’s waste Incineration plant, is one of those critics.
“The current recycling policies which urge people to separate solid waste, plastic and hazardous waste from their homes are not working,” he said.
“The island produces nearly 600 metric tonnes of rubbish every day, and this figure has been increasing by seven per cent a year since it’s construction in 1999.
“By 2010, that figure is expected to reach 1000 tons a day.”
Khun Kriengkrai said Phuket’s Incinerators can only burn between 250 and 270 tonnes a day, about half the current daily total.
The left-over waste, about a 150 tons, is dumped in land-fill sites, leaving between 130 and 150 tonnes to be dumped in a 120 rai area in Sapan Hin near the plant, to wait until the next day, creating a constant backlog waiting to be incinerated, he said.
“The major problem is the excessive amount of garbage that is left over from incineration and burying processes, is kept until the next day,” he said.
“This means the volumes is increasing every day.
“There is too much rubbish to be burned, and we are running out of landfill where we can bury this excess,” he said.
“The best way to solve the problem would be to install a new Incinerator.
“The project has been in the planning stages for a long time, but we are still waiting on funding approval.
“A new incinerator might cost more than our present Incinerator, which cost 788 million baht, but it will be able to burn an additional 250 tons a day or 82,000 tons a year,” he said.
Jenjira Cha-Oad, a crane-controller at the incinerator, said the plant functioned well, but it was struggling to keep up with the increasing demand.
“The incinerator reaches temperatures of between 800 and 900 degrees, and operates 24 hours a day for six months.
“It is then given a break of 20 days while it undergoes maintenance.
“That break every six months causes added congestion in the incineration cycle, but we don’t have any alternative.”
The Phuket Municipality incinerator’s office conducted a survey of Phuket’s rubbish-producing hotspots in 2007.
The survey found that In a single day, about 115.88 tonnes of rubbish came from Phuket City area, 92.42 tonnes from Patong, 42.44 tonnes came from the Wichit area, 41.89 tonnes came from Karon, 39.92 tonnes from Ratsada, 29.25 tonnes from Kathu, 19.86 tonnes from Rawai, 6.02 tonnes from the Thep Krasattri area, and 6.70 tonnes came from Cherng-Talay.
More than 25 per cent of the rubbish was wasted paper, 23.46 per cent was wasted food, 18.98 per cent was plastic, 12. 48 percent was non-burnable materials, 11.16 per cent was wood scraps, 5.03 per cent was elastic garbage, and 2.13 per cent was clothing items.