Thailand’s Wat Chak Daeng, a Buddhist temple south of Bangkok, has found an ingenious way to both tackle plastic pollution and provide clothing for its monks – collecting plastic bottles from a nearby river and transforming them into fabric for saffron-coloured robes for monks.
Two years ago, Wat Chak Daeng teamed up with PTT Global Chemical to launch the recycling programme, which aims to curb plastic waste entering the Chao Phraya River, which flows south to the Gulf of Thailand in the western Pacific Ocean.
Previously, plastic bottles were collected for sale because the temple didn’t have the expertise to transform them into fabrics. Now the temple has the technology and machinery to turn the plastic bottles in to fabric for use in robes.
The monks have crushed 40 tonnes (88,185 lb) of plastic over two years since launching the programme, and produced at least 800 sets of robes.
Phra Maha Pranom Dhammalangkaro, abbot of the temple in Samut Prakan province, just south of Bangkok, told Reuters: “I’m practicing the Buddha’s teachings, which also align with solving the global environmental crisis.
“Donating one kilogramme (2.2 lb) of plastic bottles can help make a full set of monk robes.”
The abbot said other temples across Thailand have started to put in orders for their recycled robes.
Each set of robes sell for between 2,000 baht ($65.79) and 5,000 baht ($164.47). The funds raised from the sale of the robes provide funding for the recycling project and pay waste-sorting volunteers, many of whom are local housewives, retirees and disabled persons.
Thailand is the fifth highest contributor of plastic to the world’s oceans, according to a report by the Ocean Conservancy. The list includes three other Southeast Asian countries and China, the top plastics polluter.
Chever Voltmer, Director for Plastics Initiatives at Ocean Conservancy, said: “Not only are the monks making a concrete contribution to recycling, but they are raising awareness in their communities.”
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyles including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com