Business, government and civil society join forces for large-scale coastal cleanup in Thailand

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2100 volunteers gathered in Bangpu, Samut Prakan, on Saturday July 6 and cleared more 2.8 tons of trash – equivalent to the weight of more than 280,000 plastic bottles –  in just under three hours.

The volunteers, representing the private sector, civil society organisations and government agencies, rallied together to pick up items like beverage bottles (glass and plastic), bottle caps, plastic bags, food wrappers, fabric, tyres and cigarette butts. Collectively they collected and segregated more than 4500 PET bottles, 1500 glass bottles as well as 200 kg of foam and 275 kg of slippers from the Bang Pu mangrove.

The cleanup, which was graced by HRH Princess Aditayadornkitikhun, was organised by the Thailand Bio-Diversity Network Alliance (B-DNA), the country’s first and only national Business and Biodiversity platform, to raise awareness about plastic pollution.

“We all generate litter, so combating marine plastic pollution is everyone’s responsibility,” said Dr. Wijarn Simachaya, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Thailand, and B-DNA Advisory Committee Member.

Before the coastal cleanup took place © IUCN

Founded by IUCN and Toyota, Thailand B-DNA is a membership platform which aims to strengthen the private sector’s role in nature conservation in Thailand, with a focus on biodiversity and contributing to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and Aichi Biodiversity Targets. The platform also provides companies the opportunity to build their awareness and capacity for sustainability, and to network and collaborate on conservation projects across Thailand. The platform’s priority for the next few years is to help businesses tackle plastic pollution.

“All businesses rely and depend on natural resources to some extent. Platforms like Thailand B-DNA encourage businesses to transform the way they value, manage and invest in nature, by highlighting the opportunities and benefits of a more sustainable approach,” said Aban Marker Kabraji, IUCN Asia Regional Director and Director of the IUCN Regional Hub for Asia-Oceania. “By addressing their environmental footprint, businesses can open up new opportunities, respond to consumer demand for responsible products, and save natural resources as well as costs.”

Exhibition by Department of Environmental Quality Promotion © IUCN

The cleanup also featured educational booths that equipped attendees with knowledge and tools to tackle plastic pollution, as individuals and as businesses.  

“Toyota Motor Thailand has been raising awareness about biodiversity conservation in Thailand via the ‘Toyota Green Town’ project, in association with Toyota network and partners like Thailand Environmental Institute and the Foundation for Environmental Education for Sustainable Development (Thailand),” said Pravena Nuntikulvanich, Vice President – Toyota Motor Thailand“Thailand B-DNA gives us the opportunity to raise awareness and take action on biodiversity conservation in Thailand through the knowledge and network of our partners from the Government, Civil Society and the private sector.”  

Volunteers segregate collected waste according to pre-defined categories © IUCN

All 14 companies that joined Thailand B-DNA as members participated in the cleanup, alongside members of the B-DNA Advisory Committee, which was established to provide strategic direction to the platform and to ensure that it is on track to meeting its established goals. The volunteers picked up trash, segregated them and collected data, which would feed into waste management strategies for the area.

After the coastal cleanup © IUCN

Plastic pollution has a lot of impact on biodiversity and human health. As we are all consumers, we need to change our lifestyle and do our part to tackle the issue. Businesses can strive to move towards a circular economy.  As well as stimulating a reduction in plastic consumption, efforts should also be focused on dealing with the plastic at the end of life stage,” said Dr. Benchamaporn Wattanatongchai, Environmental Officer, Biodiversity Management Division – Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP), and B-DNA Advisory Committee Member.

In the next few months, Thailand B-DNA will be organising workshops to equip platform members with the skills and tools required to engage in sustainability. The workshops will range from entry-level sessions on the relationship between business and biodiversity, to more issue-specific sessions, like how and why companies should address plastic pollution in their operations.

Coastal cleanup briefing by Siriporn Sriaram, IUCN Thailand Programme Officer © IUCN

In Southeast Asia, IUCN is also tackling plastic pollution through the Marine Plastics and Coastal Communities initiative (MARPLASTICCs) funded by Sida. The initiative is implemented in five countries: South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, Thailand, and Viet Nam, and uses an integrated life-cycle approach which supports a global transition from a linear take-make-dispose model to a circular plastics economy.

IUCN is also working with the private sector to develop and use a plastic footprint methodology that measures the volume and location of plastic released into the environment throughout their value chain, as well as identifying and prioritising actions to address plastic leakages.

Watch the Thailand B-DNA coastal cleanup video here