Formerly, Wat Tapotaram School in Sriracha District, Chonburi Province was surrounded by garbage. To make thing worse, the floodwaters Bang Phra Reservoir always menace the school. When water arrived, it would wash up garbage along the way and turns the school area into a breeding ground for various pathogens coupled with its unbearable odour. After the water is receded, the school area of over 20 rai (32,000 Square Meters) will be covered with trash.
Winai Buapom, director of Wat Tapotaram School, explained that in 2011 the school started an initiative with the Subdistrict Administration Organization (SAO) as well as vendors in the school and the local community to help transform the area that had been affected from flooding into a kitchen garden or a "green zone". Vegetables from this plot are being used in a lunch program more than 400 students at a time.
The project has embraced the holistic ideology expounded by King Rama IX who encouraged an integrated approach of seeing things as an interconnected dynamic system. By adopting this approach, waste management is not only about disposal but also creating job opportunities through a new life-cycle of waste management.
This initiative attracts an overwhelming support from public and private sectors, one of them is the Department of Environmental Quality Promotion. The department has provided knowledge on waste management and help organizing the waste separation process according to the 3Rs principle until the waste bank could operate fully in 2014.
In addition, inspired by the concept of sufficiency economy combined with the principles of conservation, various learning centres has been established. For example at Bai Ngern Bai Thong Learning Center children are encouraged to help to sweep the leaves and use them as a component in compost. In Namthip Learning Center, food waste is being used as organic fertilizer and bio-fermented water for the school kitchen garden. Particularly, at Pho Phak Rak Sukhaphap Learning Center, 100% organic vegetables are being grown, so that students will have access to clean and non-toxic lunches on a daily basis.
Another learning centre worth mentioning is Duen Ja Duen, where a small agricultural industry is being run by children. At this centre, earthworms are being fed with vegetable and fruit scraps and in turn, vermicompost, which is an organic fertilizer, is collected and sold. This is a good way of generating income for the students.
In Wat Tapotaram School, there is a coffee shop called "Save the World" which also act as a platform that provides occupational skills for children. For example, the students will learn how to separate waste from coffee grounds or tea leaf and turn them into products such as dishwashing liquid, hand soap, and shampoo. This coffee shop is supported by the Doi Tung Coffee Royal Project in terms of job opportunity and raw material.
To maximize zero waste management, the school has designated the location for a waste segregation bin at the cafeteria called "recycle bank" with a chic slogan "One-stop is awesome" and encourage students to throw garbage at this point every morning before joining a classroom. Each day, through the amplifier and social media, student leaders will announce the amount of collected garbage and set a new goal for waste reduction.
All of this is holistic waste management in accordance with the socio-economic approach proposed by His Majesty King Rama IX. For Wat Tapotaram School the reward is a trophy or certificate, it is by planting the 'green heart' and let children learning by doing that is considered a success. The student starts to pick up litters, stop using single-use bottle and fill up their water from filters machine. They also shun using plastic bags, plastic straws, or plastic containers etc. all of this is being done without any pressure from the school or the teachers. Naturally, the children embrace waste management into their way of life and changing their lifestyles to be more environmentally friendly.
Today, there is virtually no garbage left for students to pick up at Wat Tapotaram School as a result of working as teamwork. Every school activity is not just fun but also creating unity, harmony, strong friendships and besides, it also generates income for the students. This is the reason why Wat Tapotaram School is regarded as the example of Zero Waste School at the national level.