Sustainably Yours: Solving Phuket’s Waste Problem



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Looking at the state of waste on the island, here are 10 reasons why we need industrial composting.

In Reinventing Phuket I wrote that COVID-19 has given the island the opportunity to reinvent itself and build a greener future by introducing sustainable industries into the economy so that it does not depend solely on mass tourism and real estate.

The question is where to start? The waste management infrastructure is a starting point. To say that Phuket has a waste problem is an understatement. Before the pandemic struck, it produced 700 to 1000 tons of waste per day. Most of this waste ends up in a landfill or is incinerated. However, four of Phuket’s five landfills are already full, and the two good incinerators only have a combined capacity of about 700 tons per day. There is a third broken incinerator, but its repair would cost 530 million baht. However, from an environmental and health perspective, burning and landfilling are not the best options, as they both release greenhouse gases and toxins, which can lead to climate change, asthma, heart disease and cancer.

So what can we do? Meet Martin Hauke, composting expert, originally from Germany, he has been a resident of Phuket since 2007. He is the inventor of Mobile ventilated floor composting system (MAF), which includes several pipes with holes placed on the ground and connected to a ventilator. The pipes are covered with organic waste and then pumped with hot air which heats the pile, pasteurizes it and promotes the growth of bacteria that break it down for eight weeks. What is left is high-quality, nutrient-rich compost that can be sold to farmers and gardeners.

Since 50-60% of municipal waste is organic, we could eliminate Phuket’s waste problem in an environmentally friendly way, and at an estimated cost of 275 million B, it costs a fraction of what it would cost to repair. the incinerator. Combine it with a curbside recycling program and we could eliminate 80-90% of Phuket’s waste. Hauke’s system has also proven its worth with more than 30 projects across Germany and Australia.

Here are some of the advantages of industrial composting:

1. A cleaner island – This would mean more trash cans and bags with rubbish dumped on the ground or animals knocking them over while looking for food, less smells of wet rubbish and less rats and other pests.

2. Jobs – Hauke ​​estimates that between 100 and 200 new jobs to manage the system, collect and transport waste and make compost could be created. We can also combine the composting system with a recycling center and hazardous waste disposal to make it a complete waste management facility.

3. Reduction of waste management costs – Composting costs a fraction of the 530mn B to repair the incinerator, and it would pay for itself in 10 to 15 years by selling the compost. Hauke ​​could set up a test site for a reasonable budget of $ 1.5 million for a year and, if approved, we can slowly expand it by spreading the cost of building the facility over several years.

4. Ocean and cleaner beaches – Non-overflowing trash cans mean less waste is blown into the ocean, which means less plastic waste on beaches. A British study says 80% of ocean plastic comes from the land. Using organic compost means that farmers no longer need to rely on chemical fertilizers and can use fewer pesticides, so they don’t end up in the ocean causing algae and sea ​​urchin blooms.

5. Healthier food and higher profits – Using organic compost instead of chemical fertilizers leads to more microbes in the soil. This increases the farmer’s yield and produces food with more nutrients at a lower cost since farmers no longer need to buy fertilizer. It would also reduce the use of pesticides since healthier plants require less protection. Thailand is the fourth largest user of pesticides worldwide and maximum residual levels are often higher than what is considered healthy levels.

6. Cleaner air – By composting, we could not only eliminate toxins released by incinerators, but we could also stop the burning of organic waste mixed with plastic that is so prevalent on the island.

7. It fights climate change – Compost reduces greenhouse gas emissions in several ways. First, it removes organic waste from landfills, reducing the leakage of methane, which is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Second, it removes fertilizers, which release nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more powerful than CO2. Finally, healthy soil means a better mycelial network (fungal root system) that manages 50 to 70% of the CO2 that trees and plants sequester.

8. Less droughts – Compost can hold 20 times its weight in water. This means that the soil absorbs more, which fills underground aquifers, ponds and lakes. Since some of the rain comes from these sources, compost can improve the water cycle.

9. He teaches science – Composting is an opportunity to teach how microbes break down organic waste and turn it into something useful. It can reconnect people to an important natural process.

10. Economic benefits – Besides providing jobs, composting means a cleaner island with better infrastructure which could lead to more visitors and investors.

In the future, the ground could even supply Phuket. The start Bioo uses microbes to generate clean electricity that solves the problems of pollution and intermittence of other renewable energies.

From a cost benefit perspective, industrial composting is one of the best things we can do to make our island cleaner, more sustainable and more livable and it will improve the economy while eliminating the waste problem.


Palmer Owyoung is an environmental activist who works with the Kamala Green Club and the Global Sustainability Hub.

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