Thailand has joined a European project designed to clean plastic from oceans around the globe — and it’s the first Asian country to join.
The initial efforts in the Southeast Asian nation are happening at the most polluted — and most tourist-friendly — seaside areas including Koh Samet, Koh Samui, Phuket, and Koh Tao.
The global project, based in Spain, is called Upcycling the Oceans, and is led by an NGO called Ecoalf. The concept is to teach fishermen about plucking plastic from the ocean while they’re working. The plastic they collect will be recycled and made into products for sale that can make money for continued funding of the initiative, reported Lonely Planet.
The project has been operating in Europe on a small-scale since 2012 and has done fashion collaborations with Harrods, Barneys NY, Apple, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop site. They estimate that, since they launched, they have recycled 70 million plastic bottles.
Efforts in Thailand are expected to last three years and began this month off Koh Samet, just southeast of Bangkok. The island is the most popular destinations for city-dwellers to get to the beach for a weekend. In just five hours, local fishermen and certified divers collected more than half a ton of plastic waste from the ocean. Much of this was plastic bottles and lost or discarded plastic fishing nets.
The first year of the Thailand project will be spent collecting plastic debris, and the second will be used making that plastic into reusable items using small-scale artisans. The project is expected to go on for three-years and then be reasessed.
The project organizers are keen to promote sustainable tourism as well as anti-littering ideals.
Yuthasak Supasorn, the governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) spoke out in favor of the project. “The project reaffirms the TAT’s commitment to promoting responsible tourism and its leadership role in driving green initiatives. The project will also help ensure Koh Samet remains pristine, by providing the necessary infrastructure for trash collection, including special trash containers on the island.”