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Meet highlights benefits, need for upcycling of plastic waste

Sep 13. 2019
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By Somluck Srimalee
The Nation

PTT Global Chemical Plc (GC) plans to reduce its production of single-use plastics from 250,000 tonnes to 100,000 tonne a year in 2023, said Senior Vice President Warawan Tippawanich after attending the seminar "Upcycling for Better World 2019" on Friday.


   The event,  organised by the  Research & Innovation for Sustainability Centre (RISC) and  Magnolia Quality Development Corporation Limited (MQDC) in collaboration with  PTT Global Chemical Plc (GC) and partners from related sectors, aimed to showcase upcycling design projects, development, and innovations destined to transform unwanted materials into valuable items for household use.

   Warawan said GC had teamed up with Austria's Alpla group to set up a Bt3-billion plastic-recycling plant which would start commercial operations in 2022. The facility can recycle 65,000 tonnes of used plastic items into 45,000 tonnes of new plastic materials a year .

    “We started the campaign to upcycle single use plastics three years ago. We have succeeded in collecting  500,000 plastic items from the ocean which were upcycled into Arrow T-shirt and polo-shirts, and Jim Thomson neck ties, worth up to Bt20 million".

   Currently, there is an average of 2 million tonnes of single use plastics strewn across the Thai coasts.   

  The government policy to do away with single-use plastics in 2022 is a big step towards reducing its usage, she said. 

  According to Siam Commercial Bank's Economic Intelligence Centre, Thailand ranks sixth in a list of the world's worst offenders for dumping plastic waste into the sea, behind China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.

    Plastic waste found off the Thai coasts include bags (13%), straws (10%) and food containers (8%) among other items. 

   “Today, all of us know well that millions of tonnes of garbage are exponentially dumped on earth and these cannot be fully managed,” said Assoc Prof Dr Singh Intrachooto, Chief Adviser of Research & Innovation for Sustainability Center (RISC), one of the event’s organising partners.

   “As a research agency focusing on sustainable development and environmental preservation, RISC has a dedicated team of specialist researchers ready to share knowledge on this matter. Therefore, we are partnering to invent and develop guidelines and more effective methods for waste handling through innovations and technologies to minimise waste and create value from discarded materials in various forms.

   “At RISC, we are researching how to apply the upcycling process in product design and development as well as value creation. As a result, upcycled objects we have created and developed are as attractive and beautiful as newly manufactured products, and most importantly, they can be truly used in everyday life. We have some upcycled projects and innovations on display at this event. Among other items, there is the world debut of hand-woven carpets made from discarded plastic bottles from the sea. It is just a beginning of the upcycling movement, and RISC still needs the collaboration from various agencies and organisations to further develop for commercial purposes. I believe a concerted effort from all parties, in their areas of specialisation and expertise, can change the world.”

     Soonthorn Kraitrakul, president and owner of Carpet Maker (Thailand) CoLtd, an upcycling partner, said: “Carpet Maker supplies premium-quality carpets to leading companies worldwide and high-end fashion brands in Europe, as well as very exclusive carpeting for palaces, super yachts, and private jets. Personally, I have a passion for handicrafts and meticulous craftwork from Thailand’s northeastern villages.  I decided to open a world-class carpet factory in the Banphai district of Khon Kaen, mainly to create jobs and a steady income for the villagers, so that they could live with their families and take care of their parents.

   “Today’s plastic waste has become an increasingly serious problem and has an adverse effect on human well-being. It becomes closer and closer to us every day. It seems that most people are paying attention to this issue, but only a few have taken action to solve it. After a discussion with Dr Singh, RISC saw an opportunity for me to take part in solving the environmental problem. I like the word upcycling. It is different from recycle, because it turns a problem into a value-added object. For this reason, Carpet Maker has developed a hand-woven carpet collection, made of fabrics from discarded plastics from the sea. The qualities of these carpets are superior to others in the market as they are stain proof,  resistant to fungi, soft and easy to care for, and in compliance with the globally recognised ASTM D2859 flammability standard.

   “We have combined our carpet-weaving technique, which has been developed and used for more than 30 years, with leading contemporary design to make this upcycled carpet collection luxuriously beautiful and outstandingly functional. It is suitable for many occasions and places, and definitely helps reduce plastic waste in the sea. Once introduced, it will be the top choice for conscious consumers who are looking for household items that truly reflect the need for environmental preservation.”

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