Plastic is now almost impossible to escape in our daily life, yet it is causing untold destruction of our natural environment. Recent studies have found all waterbodies to be contaminated by micro-plastics, from the UK to China. It’s effects are most severe among ocean life: recently, a dead whale found in the Philippines had ingested 40 kilograms of plastic.

According to Thailand’s Pollution Control Department (PCD), around 11,534 tonnes per day of solid waste was generated in Bangkok in 2016 – the same weight as over 700 Bangkok tour buses. But only 10,130 tonnes per day was collected. What happens to the missing 1,404 tonnes daily, and how much of the overall waste gets recycled? Without adequate waste management systems in place to ensure consistent recycling of materials with secondary value, plastics can easily leak into the natural environment, endangering marine life on earth.

The solid waste collected by the BMA is almost 50% organic, which could be diverted to produce compost, biogas or animal feed. 20% is non-recycled plastic – that could either be avoided, by reducing unnecessary plastic consumption, or recycled. Either way, there are significant opportunities for increasing recycling rates, including of plastics. The ability to recover and convert waste to resources provides significant opportunities for Bangkok and other Asian cities to develop circular economies, to minimise resource use and keep resources in productive use for as long as possible, reducing demand for raw materials and limiting environmental degradation.