Fresh markets of any size and anywhere are increasingly focusing on waste management and cleanliness otherwise they will risk losing customers who have more options to choose from these days.
Especially since the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment through the Department of Environmental Quality Promotion has started a campaign to reduce plastic waste on World Environment Day 2018, a number of markets have caught the trend by reducing the use of plastic packaging and abandoning foam food containers.
For instance, Marketing Organization for Farmers Market (Or Tor Kor / MOF), after signing the memorandum with the Department of Environmental Quality Promotion, it had set the target to stop using foam food containers completely since beginning of the year 2019 under the campaign "Reduce plastic and foam with the fresh market". At the same time, together with SCG, Or Tor Kor has also developed a new type of plastic bag with less plastic content by 20% and the rest are substitute materials. However, Or Tor Kor has a long history of using plastic materials, it needs more time to push a new policy and adjust itself to the new practice.
Kamolwit Kaewfaek, director of the MOF. said that after starting this project, vendors in the organic market network have begun to use plastic bags developed by the project resulting in a 20% reduction in plastics used in this segment. However, MOF. market is targeting long-term reduction of plastic use which still needs more cooperation from vendors as well as consumers.
Gong Kong market, a traditional market in Ayutthaya Province is another famous tourist destination in the area that has been in operation for 13 years. Nowadays, vendors have started to reduce the use of plastic bags and stop using foam food containers, alternatively, they opted for banana leaves, paper bags, or other reusable containers.
Napaporn Wetchaprukpithak, the founder of Gong Kong market told us that the market does not have the policy to use foam food containers from the start and, in order to be more environmentally-conscious, the market management recommends every shop to switch to natural materials instead of plastic containers. The market did not force vendors to comply with its recommendation, it is up to them whether or not they are ready to use natural materials. Nevertheless, this initiative received a positive response from customers.
"The prohibition policy would be difficult because the cost of some natural materials is quite high. More than 100 stores can reduce plastic by about 40% this is considered decent. Some souvenirs are still required to be packed in plastic boxes. As for the wet rubbish, they are being collected by the Subdistrict Administration Organization and some of the vendors brought them back to feed their animals."
For newly open markets that reduce the use of plastic quite tangibly, such as the O-Poi market, Suan Phueng District, Ratchaburi Province, this market is also an outstanding example in terms of cleanliness. More than 90% of vendors are using packaging that is biodegradable or comes from a natural source.
Dr Piran Chinchot, President of Suan Phueng Tourism Business Association, Ratchaburi Province, and the co-founder of O-Poi market explained that most of vendors, particularly streetfoods, sweets and beverages shop, will hang a sign that reads "Leave the litters" so that tourists will not litter away randomly because there are no bins here.
"The shops also put a sign asking customers to return the utensils and dishes at various spots, along with the sign that ask to leave the garbage at every store. In order to prevent the village of Tha Makham, the market location, from taking sole responsibility for waste management, it is compulsory that every store have to collect garbage and run a waste sorting management in their own villages.
"At the same time, students from Tha Makham school will participate in garbage collecting activity and do the sorting, whether it is dry or wet waste, at an area near the market. Nowadays, there are a few stores that still use plastic packaging, such as a store that sell mineral water from Suan Phueng district and some shops that still in need of plastic bags in order to accommodate tourists' need. However, there are no more plastic tubes here and no plastic bags are being used as well as handle bags and 100% foam-free," Dr Piran said.
However, Dr. Piran has set the goal that by 2020, O-Poi market will turn into a zero-waste market and become the first environmentally-friendly market in Thailand with waste-free areas.
Another market in the southern region that has been open for 5 years is Talad Tai Node market or Lad Node market at Khuan Khanun District, Phatthalung Province, established in 2014 by aiming to be a chemical-free community market and focusing on reviving local food that is freshly prepared in the market, hoping that consumers can enjoy rare-to-find delicacies. In this market, using food foam containers
In addition, this market encourages vendors to stop using plastic packaging or containers except for rice curry shops that plastic materials are still in use due to necessity though, after sorting out the waste, it is found that there are no more than 2 black bags of plastic waste which is very small amount considered that there are 200 stores in this market.
Niyut Songsomphun, the owner of Talad Tai Node market said that in order to reduce hard-to-degrade materials, the market campaign for opting reusable shopping bags. At the same time, the market has bags and baskets for sale at a low price to encourage customers to reduce the use of plastic bags, while vendors are encouraged to opt for environmental-friendly packagings such as banana leaves, lotus leaves and wickers. In the future, Talad Tai Node is aiming to be a completely zero-waste market.
Commitment to stop using plastic packaging and plastic bags in the market is a good thing and should be encouraged, however, we must accept the fact that it takes time to adjust people's behaviour. While most newer markets are willing to cooperate, market places that have been run for a long time are more challenging. In this case, vendors should be well informed about the threat to the environment and provide them with alternatives to plastic material at a relatively low cost.
In addition to continuity in policy implementation, the most important thing that makes a successful waste management campaign is that everyone in that community, whether market owners or vendors, must realize that they will be benefited from 100% garbage-free society.