An old tradition gives rise to zero-waste future
If there is no “local life coach” from Ban Raberkkham village, the people in Nong Khayang community would definitely hold on to their outdated waste management by burning garbage right in front of their own house. This activity contributes the amount of planet-warming greenhouse gases on a daily basis. With the help of Ban Raberkkham, the “environmental trainer” who won the national recognition on zero waste, the future of Nong Khayang has changed.
Ban Raberkkham has become a mentor for Nong Khayang and help them set up a partnership network of among hospitals, schools, child development centres and temples. In Buriram province there a local custom called “Ja Nong Jong Dai” and it is the community of Ban Raberkkham who led the revival of this tradition. Surprisingly the resurgence of old practice is key factor to the success of modern waste management.
Soon, people of Nong Khayang has gradually gained more knowledge on waste management process and learned how to separate garbage in their community. They started to identify the types of waste that can be recycled including the one that can be used as fertilizer. They also switched from plastic bag for cloth bags, baskets and tiffin carrier.
“Ja Nong Jong Dai” is a local tradition in which the host will show their thankfulness toward those who come to participate by offering food in return. The food will be handed to each household via tiffin carriers. By using this custom as an example, the local people have abandoned the use of the plastic bag and turnrd to tiffin carriers during religious events, hence the name “Merit carriers”. The locals also carry baskets to the temple and market, and refuse to accept plastic bags or polystyrene box.
Ban Raberkkham also initiated a project called garbage-merit bank. During the Buddhist holy day, the villagers will bring recyclable garbage to the temple and earn some income by selling them to the garbage-merit bank. Ban Raberkkham, as the environmental life coach, introduced this idea to the people of Nong Khayang, a community infested with plastic waste and polystyrene box, despite located in a remote rural area.
Most garbage in Nong Khayang is imported from outside the community especially during the weekend and holiday market which are organized up to 9 times a month. Seeing their fellow farmers facing an environmental threat, the community of Ban Raberkkham volunteer to help people of Nong Khayang set up a zero-waste campaign by encouraging them to use cloth bags and baskets while asking vendors to stop using plastic bags and polystyrene box.
This campaign is gradually succeeded, the villagers have finally turned to cloth bags and baskets. As for waste sorting issue, the community has set disciplinary measures. A family who defies waste sorting policy will be denied “Ja Nong Jong Dai”, or sharing food via tiffin carriers or cloth bag. This measure is meant to encourage people to take environmental issue in their area more seriously otherwise they will face backlash.
When someone hosts an event, other members of Nong Khayang community will give their hand. The host, in return, provides foods and snacks to show his or her generosity. Normally, members of the community will bring a plastic bag along with them and carry the food back home.
As a result, the community of Nong Khayang started to persuade their fellow to “carry pinto (tiffin carriers)” instead of a plastic bag. The community leaders issued a new guideline of “Ja Nong Jong Dai" by encouraging the use of tiffin carriers during the event and stop using a plastic bag as food carriers. Traditionally those who join the event will offer money as a symbolic gesture and some sort of merit-making. Today, carrying pinto is also considered an act of merit as well.
In the end, the tradition of “Ja Nong Jong Dai” has become an effective tool to promote zero-waste strategy, and it succeeds beautifully.
Today, there is no more garbage burning in Nong Khayang village, no plastic bags are being used, waste is being sorted and recycled. Everyone in the village begins to see the importance of reducing plastic bags. Even the district hospital (SRT) stop hading out medicine envelopes or zipper storage bags made of polyethylene.