TerraCycle assists river clean ups in Thailand

Two new river plastic capture devices have been installed in Thailand by the TerraCycle Thai Foundation in a bid to clean up Thailand’s waterways.

The two new devices, one of which can be found in the waterway that runs through Khodpor public park in Rayong, have been deployed as part of a collaboration with Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR).

The floating barriers funnel plastic debris into a capture trap, intercepting it before it enters the oceans. From here, plastic waste is then collected for recycling.TerraCycle assists river clean ups in Thailand

TerraCycle Thai Foundation has committed to sustainably recycle not only the waste collected through its own collection devices and efforts, but also the waste collected by all organisations participating in an Innovation for Sustainable Ocean event held by the DMCR in Bangkok, Thailand on 8 June to mark World Oceans Day on Monday (8 June).

“Cleaning the country’s rivers and canals is a critically important priority for the Thai government,” said Suwan Nanthasarut, Senior Advisor, DMCR. “The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources is pleased to have public-private cooperation from nonprofit organizations like the TerraCycle Thai Foundation to assist in our river cleanup efforts.”

TerraCyle Thai Foundation is a locally-registered independent non-profit entity that comes under the wing of the TerraCycle Global Foundation, which was created as a public charity in 2019 with financial support from The PepsiCo Foundation.

In addition to its river clean-up activities in Thailand, the Terracycle Global Foundation hopes to implement an educational campaign underlining ways to prevent and reduce plastic pollution.

Moreover, through its relationships with regional waste management companies and TerraCycle’s larger network of research and development, logistical and processing partners it aims to provide environmentally friendly, efficient, and cost-effective recycling solutions deriving value from plastic debris to transform it into various products such as primary packaging or road materials.

“Tackling plastic waste is vital for both environmental protection and economic development in communities across the world,” said Jon Banner, EVP Global Communications and President, The PepsiCo Foundation.

Banner added: “At PepsiCo, we take very seriously our commitment to building a world where plastic need never become waste. We are proud to be the angel investor to create the TerraCycle Global Foundation, helping to catalyze funding others and enable the recovery of tons of plastic waste from our waters.”

Tom Szaky, Chairman of the Board, TerraCycle Global Foundation, said: “Through the Foundation, we hope to lead international public awareness about the need to address river and ocean plastics. By directly collecting, as well as engaging with a wide range of NGOs to collect plastic from waterways, and using our recycling solutions to process it into a high-grade material that manufacturers can integrate it into new products, we want to show there is value in these otherwise discarded plastics.”

Global clean up efforts

It is estimated that between 8-12 million tonnes of plastic enter the world’s oceans every year, with a 2017 study finding that 88-92 per cent of all marine plastic enters the ocean through 10 rivers in Africa and Asia, due to undeveloped waste management systems in many developing countries unable to deal with the vast amount of packaging and other plastic items placed on their markets every year.

TerraCycle Global Foundation also has objectives to expand into local communities in central and Southeast Asia, working with local waste management systems that are currently overwhelmed to address the issue of ocean plastic pollution.

Following China’s ban on the import of post-consumer plastic waste in 2018, southeast Asian countries received huge quantities of diverted plastic waste from Western nations, leading to contaminated water supplies, crop death, respiratory illness from exposure to burning plastic and the rise of organised crime.

Individual companies have also come in for criticism for their contribution to marine plastic pollution, with PepsiCo identified in a report by Tearfund as one of four consumer brands responsible for nearly half a million tonnes of plastic pollution each year in six developing countries.

Similar marine plastic clean-up initiatives to that deployed by TerraCycle Thai Foundation have been launched across the world to clean up marine environments. The Dutch marine litter project The Ocean Cleanup has been working since 2013 to deploy barriers in the Pacific Ocean to act as an artificial coastline and passively catch and collect ocean debris.

However, these types of marine clean-up efforts have been criticised, with Eunomia claiming in 2016 that barely one per cent of marine plastics are to be found floating at or near the ocean’s surface, with an average of less than one kilogramme (kg) found in each square kilometre (km2) of ocean.

This was echoed in an interview by Resource with Professor Richard Thompson last year who was struck by the fact that surveys on marine clean-ups tended to focus on the larger pieces of plastic litter while ignoring smaller pieces, microplastics being a key contaminator accumulating within marine environments.

You can read more about the TerraCycle Global Foundation on its website.