One person. One village.One effort that stopped a waste crisis.
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How local teamwork is transforming plastic waste into value
Welcome to Wangwa, Thailand in 2013: 500 families squeezed between piles of ever-growing trash. Filth and foul odors. No waste management or hygiene. Air pollution and sick children. Foraging dogs and rats. People fleeing to escape the waste crisis they had unintentionally created.
Then one village leader said, "Enough."
Sayan Rungreaung led community committee members to find a waste solution that would allow their village to survive and thrive. The team's first program asked each household to segregate organic waste, and soon, 18 tons were being separated monthly, fed to animals, and used as fertilizer.
I started by knocking on every door until 50 people finally joined me. I studied how to manage and sort waste on my own and then educated the volunteers.
– Sayan Rungreaung, Community Leader
An education campaign involving teachers, schools, and door-to-door instruction took awareness and action to the next level. Before long, families were also collecting their recyclable waste and bringing it to sell at a center each month.
In 2018, the Public-Private Partnership for Plastics (PPP) was launched to help the Thai government achieve their environmental goals with resources and funding from Dow and other leading companies in Thailand such as SCG and PTT Global Chemical. Through workshops on how to segregate each type of plastic and a successful network of local authorities, communities, and recycling businesses, Wangwa families developed a new mindset - plastic is too valuable to waste. By 2019, plastic waste sent to landfills was down 20% and the program aims to lower it to zero by 2022.
The passion and teamwork of leaders has inspired participation throughout the village. Plastic segregation has become a career for some locals while others create and sell products from recycled plastic. Profits from the program provide free wifi for the entire community, scholarships for students, and benefits for the elderly. Improvements in Wangwa's hygiene, quality of life, and landscape have made it a model for waste management; attracting visitors from across Thailand who come to learn best practices.
From a village drowning in trash to a shining example - Wangwa is living proof that one person can inspire tremendous change.