Mahidol University International College (MUIC) partnered with the European Union (EU) in its environmental project dubbed Canal Cleanup Day 2020 held on September 18, 2020 at Bangkok’s Lat Phrao Canal.
Representing MUIC in the third edition of EU’s cleanup activity in Thailand were Ms. Arpaporn Iemubol, Associate Dean for Administration, and several lecturers, staff members, and student volunteers.
Also present during the event were H.E. Pirkka Tapiola, EU Ambassador; Mr. Wirat Manassanitwong, Deputy Director-General of the Environment Department of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), and representatives from fellow partner organizations like TerraCycle Thai Foundation, SOS Earth, Little Big Green and Tuen Channel.
Shifting from the usual beach setting to Lat Phrao Canal in Bangkok, the cleanup campaign aimed to expand its impact by allowing the participants to experience first-hand the magnitude of the waste problem in general and plastic pollution in particular and connecting processes in the waste management system.
According to data from the Pollution Control Department, plastic waste in Thailand has jumped 15%, or up from around 5,500 tons to 6,300 tons a day. In addition, the BMA has found that the amount of food waste and used face masks has increased by 1.5 tons per day.
“Aside from coastal areas, inland waterways also require regular cleanups due to the wastes generated by industries, households, and individuals. It is quite significant that for this project, we have gathered again quite a number of volunteers from various sectors of society. Through the invaluable support of EU, we are not just doing a cleanup but also instilling in the next generation the importance of taking care of the environment,” said Dr. Wayne N. Phillips, a lecturer of the Science Division of MUIC and co-organizer of this activity. He is an environmental advocate who has organized several beach cleanup projects over the years.
“Amid this pandemic, it’s crucial to stay focused on environmental concerns and incorporate them into COVID-19 recovery efforts,” said EU Ambassador Pirkka Tapiola. “We should not lose sight that we are also fighting against climate change or ignore the fact that the climate crisis further increases the risk of pandemics. If we want to build back better after this crisis, we must aim for a greener and more sustainable world.”
Preceding the cleanup activity was the Trash Me Challenge, conceived by SOS Earth and carried out in collaboration with Little Big Green and Tuen Channel. The three organizations are led by key opinion leaders, namely Maria Poonlertlarp, Kanathip Sunthornrak or Khru LoukGolf, and Wannasingh Prasertkul. With the goal of raising awareness about how much trash one person could create, the campaign challenged young people to collect trash in their daily life and create design objects out of what they had collected. Six winners from the challenge got to participate in the Canal Cleanup Day 2020 as volunteers.
In addition to the cleanup, which was joined by over a hundred participants, including diplomats and staff from the EU Delegation, representatives from partner organizations, campaign winners and public volunteers, the cleanup day also consisted of two discussions in the afternoon for participants to better understand available solutions to the plastic problem and reflect on their wishes for a sustainable future. In the first discussion, representatives from the EU, TerraCycle and MUIC introduced the concept of circular economy, stressing how the design and production of plastic should be rethought so that plastic items could be used longer and recycled. The second discussion session saw community leaders exchanging views on waste management with the winners of the Trash Me Challenge.