Boasting superb beaches with reasonable proximity to Bangkok, Koh Samet in Rayong has welcomed a large number of entrepreneurs who start up resorts and shops to facilitate tourists. In the 3,552 square km area and 100 km of beach connect to the Gulf of Thailand, the islands has housed nearly 40 registered resorts spanning through the 12 famous beaches.
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Waste disposal has gone unchecked for two decades. On this medium-sized island located off the coast of Rayong, the island which is part of Khao Laem Ya–Mu Ko Samet National Park is now haunted by waste problems. With many tourists and businesses carelessly dumping garbage all over the place, Samet has to deal with six tonnes of waste a day. Such is about to change with the initiatives participated by some business owners and PTT Group, to help Samet achieve its goal to become Thailand’s first "green island".
To tackle the critical garbage problem on Rayong’s Samet Island, degradable waste is being turned into fertiliser and biodegradable plastic being used to keep the famous tourist destination clean.
"In the past we just buried the wastes in the landfill or ferried it to the mainland. The island was very dirty and flies were everywhere," Deputy Rayong Governor Anurak Klaikham said.
But that situation started to change after PTT Group, acknowledging the island’s garbage problem, built a plant to make fertiliser from degradable wastes last year. The facility can reduce waste on the island and make a profit for the local community from selling fertilisers.
"Since the fertiliser factory opened, we can manage the waste better than before. We have also introduced waste segregation for businesses and local communities on the island to separate degradable waste, which can be used to produce fertiliser, from the other rubbish, which is burnt," said Thapanik Sukkrajang, owner of the island’s landfill.
However, the facility didn’t run perfectly during its first year of the operation.
Garbage for fertiliser production was contaminated by non-biodegradable wastes such as plastic bags, tubes and plastic glass.
"Businesses still don’t separate waste well. Most of the businesses’ employees are Cambodians who frequently change jobs. When new employees start working, they don’t know how to segregate the waste," Thapanik said. "A lack of public awareness among the tourists is a factor too."
To help the situation, the National Innovation Agency and PTT joined forces to produce biodegradable plastic bags. With this new material, islanders can separate waste more easily. Biodegradable plastic bags will be used to load degradable waste, and they would be transported to the fertiliser plant.
Samet Village Health Volunteers have also worked hard to teach business owners and islanders to separate waste correctly every Tuesday. Recycling bins have been placed all around the island for tourists to use.
It will take some time when the island will become as "green" as it wants to be.