Napapat Au-chaeron, affectionately referred to a ‘Apple’ in her community, remembers a time when garbage was overflowing in her hometown.
That was until Apple, the leader of Chak Luk Ya community, home to a population of about 2,000, decided to take charge and start their journey towards a “zero-waste” community in 2019.
She began by segregating her own waste at home, and found that there were local buyers who were keen to buy recyclables off her, while others benefitted from fertilisers made from organic waste.
“People think that everything is garbage,” said Apple, “if we just look at it as one pile of trash, it looks difficult to solve.” She quickly proved that there was value to be unlocked from waste. For instance, when the pandemic struck, she was able to buy surgical masks and cleaning supplies for the community with the money she made from selling waste to recyclers.
“We want them to see the waste not just as garbage, but how it can really benefit them.”
Now, Apple works with the Rayong Less-Waste project to educate residents in her neighbourhood and nearby communities, teaching them how to separate their waste into four different streams—organic, recyclable, hazardous and general—and partners communities with recyclers in the area to process their waste, developing micro circular economies in the region.
The learning starts early. Apple goes to schools and temples to teach home waste management practices, even going into details about the different types of plastic waste and its associated values.
To aid Apple’s education efforts, as well as other community leaders like her, the Alliance helped develop the “Advancing Community Waste Management with the Circular Economy” guidebook. The guidebook includes lessons on sorting waste and recycling, as well as activities to help bring circular economy concepts to life.
As of September 2021, the guidebook has been distributed to 20 municipalities and 200 primary schools in Rayong province, with an e-book in Thai and English also available.