Meet the Fishers of Nakhon Si Thammarat and their views on marine plastic pollution

Country: Thailand
key Area: Ports & Fisheries
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In Thailand, “Rethinking Plastics” teamed up with Kasetsart University and the fishing community of Ban Nai Thung in Nakhon Si Thammarat to strengthening marine debris management on small-scaled fishing vessels and in fishing communities as part of the efforts to find solutions to reduce marine plastic waste.

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At the beginning of this year, the fishers were invited to note the amount of lost gear as well as plastics brought on ships so that Kasetsart University has reliable data to develop recommendations and guidelines. In March, a training and exchange with more than 20 fishers on location took place to share more about improving plastic waste management as well as to learn about the efforts and challenges of the communities. At the end of May, “Rethinking Plastics” and the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) then hosted an online “Fisheries Debris Management Workshop” on lessons learned and solutions from Thailand, as well as the region, Japan and Europe. As a next step, Kasetsart University continues to evaluate the data and will return to the community to discuss further solutions and findings from their research. 

On the occasion of today’s World Oceans Day, follow us on a trip to Nakhon Si Thammarat and hear the voices of the fishing community: 

On 26 March, the ‘Rethining Plastics’ team, along with educators from the Faculty of Fisheries of, Kasetsart University visited Ban Nai Thung subdistrict, Tha Sala District, Nakhon Si Thammarat to follow up on activities to spread knowledge about plastic waste management for fishermen and to learn from their routines to reduce plastic waste leakage into the ocean.

The team arrived at the coastal village of Ban Nai Thung early in the morning but that did not escape the unsparing heat of March. The villagers had chosen a small 2-story pavilion on the beach as their meeting place, next to few fishing boats being tied up along the beach. There was excitement in the air as the professors from Kasetsart University, who had come to survey the fishers’ plastic usage two months ago, were returning to share their knowledge on waste management with the community. An announcement boomed from the loudspeakers: The fishers lined up to join the workshop, still engaged in their morning chats. Some had just returned from fishing at 4.00 am in the morning.

"Short mackerels are now back after a long time," a fisherman’s voice was heard.

While the workshop went on cheerfully from late morning to the afternoon, hearing the details from the workshop, one might recall the data from a 2015 study by the Thai Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, which shows that ​​more than 80% of marine plastic litter originates on land.

Imagine Pak Phanang District, Nakhon Si Thammarat, which is located on an estuary and known for delicious food. Pak Phanang River runs for hundreds of kilometers, branching out all the way to Phatthalung. In addition to being an abundant source of seafood, it also conveys thousands pieces of plastic waste per day to the ocean. Once out there, they are no longer bound by borders, like this little visitor from Thailand in Maldives.

As coastal residents, the fishers are forced to deal with beach litter from unknown origins daily. Their traditional fishing activities may also contribute to plastic waste. And how much waste do their plastic-ridden lives at the coast add to the marine litter, if at all?

 "Apart from commercial fishing whose environmental impacts are monitored by the Department of Fisheries and various organizations, as fishing vessels of all sizes are out at sea around the clock, we would like to pay attention to traditional fishing as well. Because even though these fishers use small fishing boats, they go fishing frequently and live by the sea. In Thailand, there are about 3,600 coastal fishing villages just like this one." 

 explained Asst. Prof. Dr. Methee Kaewnern from the Faculty of Fisheries at Kasetsart Universitycurrently cooperating with the “Rethinking Plastics” project on debris management from small-scale fishing activities and communities. The professor said that this village was chosen for being among the most cooperative and motivated communities, with a previous collaboration with the Department of Fisheries. A few weeks before, the Kasetsart team had handed out notebooks to the fishers to write down the numbers of items brought on board their boats that may be littered, including lunch items, water bottles, energy drink bottles. In addition, they were asked to note the numbers of fishing nets and counting those lost in the sea. During two months, eight fishermen had lost a total of 14 fishing nets in the sea.

Why is it necessary to keep count of lost fishing nets?

Because abandoned fishing gear, intentionally dropped or lost by accident, leads to a new problem that is being discussed: ghost nets, which are made out of plastic fibres and other gear. Marine animals can get trapped in it and die. A tool such as a shrimp trap, if left in the ocean, can trap animals that wander in. With small fish trapped inside, it will attract big fish, causing a chain of death.

"The sea is not a trash can. Villagers here don’t just throw their net into the water unless it gets stuck to trash, stump, or ship debris underwater. The sea is our livelihood. I always ask people if they would eat stuff fished out from the trash.” Charoen Toitae, the community leader, shared his thoughts after the workshop. Mu has been a fisherman for more than 40 years. Growing up with it, he has seen the sea struggling with plastic waste pollution that is plaguing the whole world. Mu is the community’s key coordinator in various occasions, such as community food processingand fundraising to equip fishing boats with solar panels. He also represents the community in working with governmental organizations. "When I was small, we didn’t need tools to catch crabs. We sometimes stepped on one while swimming. There was also water spinach on the beach that we would use to lure crabs out of their holes, then we got our crab dinner. Lately there started to be more (fishing) ships with advanced gear. Marine animals are caught faster than they can grow, so we villagers started to look for a solution ourselves."

"Fishermen don't throw trash into the ocean. They’ll just get stuck in our nets and gear. In strong currents they can tangle up pretty badly.” Phanak Pandit, boatmaker and fisherman, said with a thick Southern Thai accent after the workshop. He had just caught 100 kilograms of short mackerels with a gillnet the night before.

If fishing tools littering is not a problem here, then what about waste management of this coastal community`?

Knowledge on how to improve waste management and reduce the effects of plastic litter is still limited, not only in fishing communities but also in big cities. Therefore, the training served to strengthen knowledge on ways to manage and dispose marine debris within the community and onboard. A key learning was that a better collection, sorting and recycling will never solve the problem alone unless waste production and consumption are reduced first.

"The villagers get together to collect litter on Eid al-Fitr and on December 5th of every year. The SAO (Subdistrict Administrative Organization) lends us containers and sometimes sends a truck to pick them up, but it's never enough. The trash in our village just keeps increasing. People today are all about convenience. You end up with trash just by buying yourself a meal." Anan Yiko, a fisherman, voiced his view on the community’s production and management of waste. The villagers said that he goes out to clean the beach every morning.

Reducing plastic waste is not just about collecting, sorting and recycling but also about behavior changes that require long and continuous work. Mu, the community leader, shared that they had already made a big improvement.

When asked "How do you want organizations to help solve the plastic waste problem?" Kato Toitae, a cook said: "I once proposed to the SAO that I’d like them to help teach the villagers about trash more often. Sometimes people don’t listen when it’s just us volunteering housewives talking. They just nod and then ignore what we say. This happens everywhere. So in the meantime, we start by teaching our children because we can."

Her comment is interesting as it alignes with Prof. Methee’s opinion. When asked about the future and expectations for the activities, he replied that every project has its duration. Although the Ban Nai Thung community may have more awareness than others, it’s up to them to continue the efforts.

Just like how Kato put it, "When we can't change other people, we start with ourselves and teach our children in the meantime."

Learn more: Wasteless Wednesdays Session 1

Country: All Countries
  • Wala_Usik_Albao_Philippines.pdf
  • Alliance_of_Retailers_Ngoc_Vietnam.pdf
  • Single-use_plastics_free_schools_Roger_Indonesia.pdf
  • Less_Plastics_Phuket_Boonchai_Thailand.pdf
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    key Area: Consumption & Production, Waste Management, Circular Economy, Awareness Raising
    Related item: A Supermarket Alliance to Reduce Single-Use Plastic Bags, Less Plastics in Phuket, Single-Use Plastic Free Schools , Wala Usik – Nothing is wasted
    City: online
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    On 1 June, we kicked off the first session on ‘Rethinking Plastics - How international collaboration supports circular economy solutions for single-use plastics’. Find here the presentations and recording! 

    Video Youtube:
    Video 1 Description: Watch the recording of session 1
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    Successfull kick-off of the Wasteless Wednesdays series on "Rethinking Plastics - How international collaboration supports circular economy solutions for single-use plastics".

    The ‘Wasteless Wednesdays’ webinar series includes five sessions to enhance regional exchange and share the expertise generated throughout the three years of the “Rethinking Plastics” project implementation with a specific focus on the pilot projects. In the first round, four pilot projects with focus on single-use plastics prevention presented their work to pilot alternative packaging solutions and behaviour change approaches: 

    • Wala Usik: local circular economy to reduce waste, Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation (PRRCFI), Philippines
    • Reducing single-use plastic bags and packaging in supermarkets in Ha Noi, Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment (ISPONRE), Vietnam
    • Less plastics in Phuket: reduction and better plastic waste management in households and businesses, Phuket Environmental Foundation, Thailand
    • Single-use plastic free schools in East Java and Lombok, Make Oceans Plastic Free, Indonesia

    The speakers exchanged about their different solution approaches and discussed aspects such as the sustainability, the upscaling of their projects and the importance of collaboration between different stakeholder groups. At the end, the session was nicely summarised by IVL – Swedish Environmental Research Institute, highlighting the 1) need to test change models, 2) the importance of involving stakeholders along the value chain, 3) exchange and learning from each other and 4) thinking globally and cooperate internationally.

    To learn more, please find the presentations below and watch the recording. 

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    More animation needed? Please find our graphic recording video here

    Strengthening Ship Waste Management in Vietnam and in the region

    Country: Vietnam, All Countries
    key Area: Ports & Fisheries
    Related item: A Better Ship Waste Handling in Vietnamese Ports, Improving Ship Waste Management in Chinese Commercial Ports , Improving Ship Waste Management in Philippine Ports , Ship Waste Management 2.0
    City: Da Nang
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    The maritime traffic has been increasing worldwide during the last 20 years. This has resulted in a much stronger focus on its environmental impact from Government and NGO ́s, and lately also from the shipping industry.

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    Video 1 Description: Improving Ship Waste Management in Vietnamese sea ports: The following video has been produced by the EU-German Government funded ‘Rethinking Plastics – Circular Economy Solutions to Marine Litter’ project in close cooperation with Vinamarine, Hanoi, The Port Authority HCMC and Cat Lai Terminal, New Saigon Port. It highlights the results of the Vietnamese pilot project on improving Ship Waste Management to reduce illegal discharges from ships into the sea and how this will benefit port stakeholders, for examplethrough online waste notification and incentivizing cost recovery systems. The pilot project, conducted between 2020-2022builds on “best practices” from EU ports and the conclusions from the EU Directive 2000/59.
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     One of the aspects in focus are illegal operational discharges of ship waste especially in coastal areas. Oily waste, garbage, plastic, sewage, and hazardous waste, among others, have a huge negative impact on the marine environment, fishing, and tourism industry with ship maritime waste also contributing to the increasing volume of plastics found in the oceans. "Rethinking Plastics" works on providing solutions in its pilot projects with ports in China, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

    To reduce illegal dumping of ship waste into the sea and to improve its management on land in Vietnamese ports, the Vietnam Maritime Administration (Vinamarine) and the Ministry of Transport (MOT) have cooperated with “Rethinking Plastics” in the past two years. On 16 and 17 May, the partners presented the results of the cooperation on ship waste management and an outlook to further following improvements. Vinamarine and the project co-hosted a national and aregional workshop on “Ship and Port Waste Management: Addressing Sea-based Marine Litter from Commercial Vessel and Ports” with representatives from the Vietnamese Ministry of Transport, Vinamarine, Saigon Newport Corporation, ports authorities in Vietnam, the counterparts from neighbouring ASEAN countries as well as international and national experts.

    Between April 2020 and April 2022, the Vietnamese Ministry of Transport, Vinamarine Hanoi and HCMC, and “Rethinking Plastics” implemented the pilot project “Ship Waste Management in Vietnamese ports”, in Cat Lai terminal (Saigon Newport) with the assistance of international and local maritime experts. In Vietnam, ships can deliver their waste to facilities in some ports. However, many ports are facing several challenges in providing efficient ship waste collection services and are not yet equipped with adequate reception facilities or other collection systems for the management of ship wastes and most of them sign contracts with external waste operators, although the national government has developed regulations to encourage the expansion and presence of waste reception facilities at the ports (e.g., Circular 41/2017/TT-BGTVT of the Ministry of Transport, Law on Environmental Protection, 2020). If ships calling at Vietnamese ports cannot deliver their waste at port reception facilities or other collection systems, they are often indirectly forced to dump it illegally into the sea.

    During the pilot project in Cat Lai port, the partners assessed the existing system and national legislation, current challenges and options for improving the facilities and have provided several recommendations also including best practices from European ports. The project designed and implemented an online waste notification system, recommended a more incentivizing Cost Recovery System (waste fee) and prepared a description of existing procedures in a Ship Waste Management Manual, which were agreed upon
    between relevant partners, among them Vinamarine, Port Authorities, and operators. Mr. Nguyen Hoang, Deputy General Director of Vinamarine, remarked: 

    Highlight Quote 1: “The online waste notification system is now implemented at Vinamarine HCMC and described in the manual for the information to stakeholders. With these improvements, the ports can in the future provide efficient waste handling services to ships and ease the administrative procedures for shipping agents. It is an important step towards more sustainability and contribution to reduce marine litter and Vinamarine will participate in replicating the results of the pilot project to other ports nationwide.”
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    “The introduction of an incentivizing Cost Recovery System will stimulate waste delivery. Furthermore, implementing the proposed activities will be beneficial not only to the shipping industry but also provide financial and administrative benefits to the port and its stakeholders. This will not only make the port fully compliant with international conventions and national regulations but also serve as an example for other ports in the region. We are glad that we could contribute to this process based on our experiences and
    approaches from European ports”, said Mr. Rui Ludovino, First Counsellor at the European Union Delegation to Vietnam.

    Mr. Jens Peter Oehlenschlaeger, Key expert on Ship Waste Management of the “Rethinking Plastics” project, explained: “It is vital that the waste collected from ships is managed properly on land and to the extent possible merged into the municipal waste streams according to national regulations regarding further treatment and final disposal. All steps from the collection to treatment and final disposal have to be addressed efficiently. In Europe for example, the introduction of fully or partly indirect waste fees contributed to increasing delivery of waste to EU port reception facilities. A more widespread introduction of indirect fees will without doubt also have a significant positive environmental impact in South East Asia. We had valuable discussions in the past two years, whose results can now be disseminated to other ports in Vietnam and also contribute to strengthening regional cooperation on ship waste management.”

    "Rethinking Plastics" follows a same approach in close cooperation with partners and selected ports in China, the Philippines and Thailand. 

    Cross-border agreements and regional cooperation on ship waste management have been introduced in many parts of the world and could also be relevant for the ASEAN region, said Oehlenschlaeger. He raised during the regional session: “Ships and waste move across borders, and this is why we need regional cooperation on this matter. Pooling resources and expertise will provide a more cost-effective way to address discharges from ships that cannot be dealt with immediately by one country. It can help authorities and ports to implement harmonised measures and ensure a more uniform implementation of such measures.” In addition, promoting stronger ASEAN cooperation would contribute to wider global cooperation on shipping issues that are regulated under the MARPOL convention. Oehlenschlaeger suggested strengthening ASEAN maritime cooperation, which could include the preparation of an ASEAN Ship Waste Management Strategy, involving measures to reduce illegal discharges, utilisation of synergies as well as national and international experience. 

    Tran Viet Ha, Deputy Director at the International Cooperation Department for the MoT said: “We need global efforts and regional cooperation, so we encourage ASEAN member states to work together.” Vinamarine will send a new proposal via the ASEAN Secretariat, Ha added.

    "Rethinking Plastics" has already published a policy brief on Ship Waste Management in Vietnam and a infographic on improving Ship Waste Management. Please find more under "Downloads".

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    Join us: Wasteless Wednesday Series, 1 June - 6 July

    Country: All Countries
    key Area: Ports & Fisheries, Consumption & Production, Waste Management, Circular Economy, Awareness Raising
    City: online
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    Between 1 June and 6 July, "Rethinking Plastics" hosted five events of the Wasteless Wednesday Series

    Participants could learn more about the pilot projects of 'Rethinking Plastics', our activities, achievements and learnings and what this can mean for the future development towards a Circular Economy for Plastics.


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    Where: online via WebEx

    When: 1, 15, 22, 29 June and 6 July 2022

    The ‘Wasteless Wednesdays’ webinar series ran from 1 June to 6 July to enhance regional exchange and share the expertise generated throughout the three years of the “Rethinking Plastics” project implementation with a specific focus on our pilot projects. All recaps and recordings are available with the links below.

    Session 1

    On 1 June, we kicked off the first session on ‘Rethinking Plastics - How international collaboration supports circular economy solutions for single-use plastics’. We showcased the benefits of international collaboration for the prevention of single-use plastics and the transition towards a circular economy. Learn more about successful cooperation for policy development as well as on the ground piloting of alternative packaging solutions and useful knowledge products that were developed. The session was an official partner event of the EU Green Week.

    The presentations and recording are available here.  

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    Session 2, 15 June:

    From Raising Awareness to Changing Behaviour - How to Encourage Citizens to join the Circular Economy for Plastics - in collaboration with the PREVENT Waste Alliance

    Many circular economy solutions, such as recycling, reuse and refurbishment schemes, will only be successful if people are aware of why a shift to a circular economy is needed and change their behaviour. The second webinar session built the bridge between successful awareness campaigns and the different levers of behaviour change that will help you develop even more effective approaches to encourage citizens to participate in a circular economy for plastics. Participants earned about successful campaigning and why behaviour change approaches pay off in terms of programmatic and financial results and had the opportunity to interact with experts and practitioners from Rare's Center for Behavior & the Environment, CHANGE Vietnam and Delterra and learn about concrete approaches like the “Fishing for Litter” project in China, supported by GIZ.  

    The presentations and recording are available here.  

    Session 3, 22 June:

    Promoting Alternatives to Single-Use Plastics in (Super)markets, Express Delivery and Logistics

    This third webinar session focussed on the prevention of single-use plastics by promoting more sustainable alternatives. The solutions that were presented include eco-labelling for packaging, reusable boxes and containers to replace plastic bags, and a comprehensive strategy to introduce alternative packaging on traditional markets.

    The presentations and recording are available here.  

    Session 4, 29 June:

    Enhancing Local Waste Management and Exploring Options for EPR for Packaging

    The fourth session of the “Wasteless Wednesdays” series on 29 June shone a light on the topic “Enhancing local waste management and exploring options for EPR for packaging”. It looked at four of the “Rethinking Plastics” pilot projects with a scope on improving waste management systems and possibly contributing to the introduction of an EPR scheme. The selected approaches of the implementing partners vary from digital solutions and the collaboration with the informal sector to the improvement of collection and sorting procedures through innovation and partnerships.

    The presentations and recording are available here.  

    Session 5, 6 July:

    Collecting, Sorting and Recycling Plastics – Improving Local Action

    The final session of the ‘Wasteless Wednesdays’ series was titledCollecting, sorting and recycling plastics – improving local action’. It featured "Rethinking Plastics" pilot projects with a scope on improving waste management systems and possibly contributing to the introduction of an EPR scheme. The tested solutions of the implementing partners varied from supporting communities with new technology, educational campaigns at zero waste schools and the collaboration with the informal sector to the improvement of plastic use in agriculture for less plastic pollution. 

    The presentations and recording are available here.  

    Spotted: Mysterious creatures in Ho Chi Minh City

    Country: Vietnam
    key Area: Consumption & Production, Awareness Raising
    City: Ho Chi Minh City
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    Two mysterious creatures appeared at the Pandora City shopping center in Tan Phu District of Ho Chi Minh City today and surprised shoppers and visitors.


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    With the look of dangerous monsters made out of single-use plastic waste, the “Plastic Beasts” aim to raise awareness about single-use plastic pollution and its dangers to the environment and human health and inspire the community to take collective action based. They are part of the “Plastic Beast” campaign organised by CHANGE on behalf of ‘Rethinking Plastics’ and supported by further business and media partners with the message: “Stop creating plastic beasts!”

    The campaign launch was attended by around 100 guests from local authorities, diplomatic representations, businesses, NGOs, academia and media. The guests shared their thoughts and aspirations about the plastic pollution crisis and what everyone could do. They also had a chance to look at the Plastic Beast up close, to learn about plastic pollution as well as solutions and ways to reduce it. 

    Counsellor Rui Ludovino of the European Union Delegation to Vietnam explained: “The Plastic Beast aims to inform consumers about sustainable consumption and production of plastic and the impacts of littering on the environment. We hope that this creative approach will contribute to more awareness of Vietnamese citizens, especially the young generation, on reducing single-use plastics and that it will accelerate the collective actions for the prevention of plastic pollution.” 

    The Plastic Beast borrows the image of an imaginative monster, similar to the legendary Vietnamese “thuong luong” or the Loch Ness monster, to convey how dangerous and scary plastic waste can be. It creatively conveys the message of how the plastic wastes we discharge daily are silently drifting through rivers and waterways and then into the sea, filling up the oceans with marine litter. The models were built out of plastic waste, which was collected by community members, cleaned by volunteers and which will be recycled after the campaign. One of the two models visualises the amount of plastic waste that an average Vietnamese person discharges in a year, which is an estimated 37kg, according to the findings of the National Plastic Action Partnership (NPAP). 

    CHANGE’s Managing Director Thoi Thi Chau Nhi said: “The current plastic pollution is massive. No single organization can solve it. It will require us all to work together: government, businesses, scientists, and the community. We also have realized how challenging it is to turn from awareness to real behavior change. This Plastic Beast is a creative tool for us. We want to use the image of an underwater monster to emphasize that, with our habits of using single-use plastics, we are creating many "Plastic Beasts" and causing a lot of harm to the environment and our own health. Of course, it will in addition take many other interventions and innovations, and especially policies, to actually reduce single-use plastics consumption. So I hope you all will join us in this challenging mission.” 

    To make the event space even more engaging, the campaign partners organized many activities to interact with and inspire people, especially young ones. An information station displayed the campaign information, images, models, and various booths offered mini-games and quizzes to engage and challenge the visitors and showcase solutions to plastic waste pollution. The Plastic Beast and activities will be open for the public until May 15 in various shopping malls, and online until May 22 on the campaign website  

    Take a look at how the Plastic Beast emerged in our video.