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The incinerator fails to cope with the island's daily disposal

Enviro Chief Calls for Unity in Trash Crisis

Wednesday, February 20, 2008
PHUKET'S biggest environmental problem does not get the attention it needs because there is no single organisation responsible for providing a solution, says the island's natural resources chief.

The biggest environmental problem is garbage disposal. How can it possibly be solved if there is no island-wide plan?

Ongart Chanachanmongkol, head of the Phuket Natural Resources and Environment Department, says too many authorities and other groups make their own decisions without co-ordination.

A total of 19 local government bodies oversee Phuket's garbage: nine Tessaban, nine Orbortor and one Orborjor. They each manage waste problems in their own way.

There is no one, shared method. As a result, systems vary from one section of the island to another. For example, what happens in Patong bears no relationship to what happens in Phuket City.

So, Khun Ongart says, some local organisations will have their own garbage collection carts. Others do not have their own vehicles and sub-contract collection services.

There is no overall plan for recycling. Different localities will have different colors for the same kinds of recycling, with red in one meaning the same as green in another, different pickup schedules and different methods of sorting the waste.

All of Phuket's trash is supposed to finish up at the Saphan Hin incinerator.

But Khun Ongart says some private contractors, faced with paying a disposal fee of 300 baht a tonne, will dump the rubbish in other spots if they can avoid detection.

The Orborjor, largest of the local groups, was trying to create one garbage disposal and recycling organisation, he said.

But cooperation was proving difficult because smaller authorities saw it as a threat to their power and income. Meetings have been held ''many times'' without a decision being agreed.

The incinerator, nine years old now, can only cope with about half of the 500 or 600 tonnes of garbage generated on Phuket each day.

The rest is being stored at Saphan Hin on a 12 rai plot. Khun Ongart says the ''mountain'' of garbage is now taller than a three storey building and continues to grow.

The Tessaban Phuket oversees the incinerator and has proposed building a second incinerator for 1.3 billion baht.

Some investment is being sought from the private sector to help the government cover the cost.

Improvements would be made to the original incinerator, too, at a cost of 328 million baht.

But Khun Ongart says incinerators, even with the most modern protection systems, still create their own pollution when they burn waste.

''It's not the best way to solve the garbage problem but Phuket only has 12 rai for storage, and no landfill disposal,'' Khun Ongart said.

Patong's independent approach to dealing with garbage with a compactor worked with small amounts but not large amounts, he said.

When it came to recycling, glass is the biggest issue. While there was a market for recycled plastic bottles in Bangkok, the price for glass remained too low at 70 satang a kilo.

Organic garbage could be properly treated and recycled as fertiliser through plants in Thepkasattri and Cherngtalay.

Phuket has yet to reach the point where there is an overall recycling plan, he said.

This year the aim is to encourage residents to separate wet and dry garbage, dangerous garbage, and material that can be recycled.

Khun Ongart would like to see an association of all the groups established to deal with the practicalities of garbage disposal.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment could provide suggested answers, but does not have the power to implement the solutions, he said.

''People should be encouraged to recycle and separate organic material so it can be used as fertiliser, not wasted,'' he said.

''The factories or retailers dealing with dangerous refuse in bulk should also be paying for disposal,'' he said. ''At present, responsibility is not made clear.''

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