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Khun Nid at her Phuket airport store: No plastic bags, or plastic people

Waste Apocalypse Closes on Phuket Doorsteps

Saturday, January 8, 2011
THE BAG stops here. Nid Sirisupa has lodged her protest to save the planet, and Phuket.

The thoughtful shopkeeper no longer dispenses plastic bags with items purchased from her convenience store at Phuket International Airport.

In taking her small but significant stand, Khun Nid hopes to influence all of Phuket to start looking at our waste. Rubbish, trash, garbage, call it what you like like.

You can even call it a killer if you wish, because waste is gradually choking the island to death.

Just the other day, Phuketwan was looking at Phuket's waste, and we didn't like what we saw. The road to the dump takes tip trippers from wonderland to wasteland in the space of a couple of kilometres.

We go to the island's one and only dump at Saphan Hin near Phuket City once a year, about this time. After New Year, the visit is always a sobering experience.

Economically, with an eye to the future of the holiday island with the golden brand name, this is a measure of Phuket's GDP: Gross Domestic Putridness.

It's the end of the road, in more ways than one. A vision of environmental hell, a place of foul strenches and hopelessness, a frightening reminder of the off-hand way we all treat the planet and Phuket.

Every year brings changes as Phuket authorities struggle to hide their shame. Every year we are surprised and confronted by what we see and smell.

We feared 2011, young though it is, would prove to be no different. And we were right. The landscape has changed, but the lessons remain the same.

The mountain of garbage that rose up and into our nostrils last year has been covered, although we suspect a thin layer of earth will not stop the trash beneath it from turning toxic and eventually making its way into surrounding canals, the mangroves and the sea.

It has happened before, and it will happen again: nothing is surer.

The scale of Phuket's waste nightmare is difficult to convey. We don't like to embellish or exaggerate the facts. At the tip, we don't need to.

Phuket's shocking legacy, the grim, slimy stuff that oozes from an island with misplaced priorities and a legion of unthinking consumers, is a disturbing reminder of an apocalypse, certain to arrive later today, or perhaps tomorrow.

In a sense, Phuket is committing suicide. Slowly but surely, bagful by bagful, the inhabitants of the holiday island are wallowing in their own waste. It's metaphorical imagery for now.

But it's there, on every Phuket doorstep, growing each day, out of control. If you don't believe us, take a trip to the tip.

Khun Nid and others like her represent Phuket's best hope. Taking a stand against plastic bags has left her sometimes having to explain herself to shoppers who have yet to get the message.

Yet saving Phuket is all about ceasing to use plastic bags, and a whole lot more.

Reduce, reuse, recycle: this is what the island needs, along with a million people like Khun Nid.

She's seen the future and she doesn't like it. We've seen the waste mountain, and we don't like that, either.

The bag stops here.
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Phuket's Muck-Rakers Battle for Island's Future
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Phuket's Stink Mountain Now on Toxic Overload
Toxic Shocker The mountain of trash on Phuket is now growing out of control. There is no reduce and recycle strategy. Expect a toxic disaster for the island and tourism any time now.
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Phuket's Putrid Pile Looms as Next Big Hazard
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Enviro Chief Calls for Unity in Trash Crisis
Each day, Phuket creates twice as much garbage as it can dispose of. Yet no sensible joint approach is being taken to cope or prevent a crisis, says a leading island official.
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not disagreeing with you. how many of us use the same plastic bags to put garbage in at our homes. so people will just buy plastic garbage bags at tesco. its not the bags. its the people. the best part of this article is the khun nid telling people about the problem.

waste is a huge problem here. but that is not a priority. i guess someone has not figured out how to skim and make money on it yet. then it will be a priority.

Posted by john s on January 8, 2011 13:16

Editor Comment:

Money seems to be always on your mind, john. But not everyone is motivated by it. Best not to assume everyone focuses on money and convenience alone - that's the real problem.

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editor.. please inform us what thai phuket officials and leaders are not in for money? thailand is so deep in corruption, graf, and skimming. really would like to know.

Posted by john s on January 8, 2011 13:35

Editor Comment:

That's the point, john. Not every Thai official is corrupt. To assume everybody is corrupt is sad, really, as well as being unfair. It means you can never distinguish good from bad. The assumption of evil is almost as damaging as the graft.

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Ban all plastic bags it would take a massive shift in public thinking. Especially people from a non-recycling culture.

Posted by Lincoln on January 8, 2011 18:24

Editor Comment:

Do you mean, expats conditioned to buy packaged and processed goods from supermarkets, rather than fresh organic food that decomposes easily?

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The amount of garbage is a part of the structure development here.
Fast food is sold in convenient shops and supermarkets now.
Before people ate home or in restaurants, but now they buy ready made food in foam containers.
We collect about 20 gallons of these containers daily and this is just the amount for one small hotel.

Posted by Hotel owner in Patong on January 8, 2011 18:38

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I will be sure to patronize Nid Sirisup's little store next time I pass though the airport.

Good on her for taking a stand.

Let's hope it makes a difference and encourages others to do the same.

Posted by Mikey on January 8, 2011 23:57

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"Do you mean, expats conditioned to buy packaged and processed goods from supermarkets", interesting comment from you. Just like all Thais are not the same, all expats are not the same.

I still get the same surprised look when I say "Mai Sai Tung Khrap" and place my purchases in my own reusable bag. Bags are only part of the problem, what about the plastic bottles that people must use because the water is not safe to drink from the faucet?

How about the construction materials that are dumped around the island. Kudos to Khun Nid and Phuket Wan for beginning the process. Every society is a group of lemmings that will follow the rest. Khun Nid is a great start.

Posted by Jon on January 9, 2011 09:51

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Ed, please let us know when Khun Nid goes out of business or starts giving plastic bags again.

She is lucky that most of, if not all of, her customers are passing trade, so they don't know they not getting a bag for the half dozen items they've purchased.

If her shop was in town, she wouldn't last long with that "stand".

PS. When is the new incinerator coming online?

Posted by Mike Boyd on January 11, 2011 17:44


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