When we first moved to Koh Chang the garbage disposal facility was in the form of a large hole in the ground. As the island got busier, the hole got bigger. It was obvious that something, other than continually making the hole larger, had to be done.
DASTA, the government organisation who oversee the development of Koh Chang in their own haphazard manner , came up trumps and a 50-million-baht garbage disposal plant was built. This opened around 5 years ago.
At the time the specification for the automated plant, originally designed, built and operated by a specialist waste management firm Pairote Sompong Panich Co. included waste sorting conveyors and baling machines plus biogas collection and utilisation, biofilter, and sludge dewatering. Which all sounds pretty advanced and eco-friendly to my non-scientific mind..
But over time it appears that the original operator was replaced by someone cheaper. and then a little while later by someone even cheaper. As, in 2009 it was reported that a new operator was being paid 600,000 Baht/month to collect and dispose of waste. on Koh Chang. However, like their predecessor they were reluctant to invest in more equipment due to the short term of the contract offered.
Many people complain about garbage on Koh Chang, from debris washed up on the beach to piles of black plastic bags piled by the roadside from which weird and wonderful smells emanate. The garbage that isn’t fly tipped on wasteland, ends up being collected by the bin men and taken to this state of the art waste management facility.
But what really goes on inside the state of the art garbage plant? .
There are no signs saying Keep Out or anyone manning the gates, which are always left open. As you enter the compound you pass a deserted guard’s hut that has seen better days. The old pit is on the left above the road and just before and behind the weighstation, which also looks like it hasn’t been used for a while.
Follow the concrete road, past the rooms where the workers live and up to the large ,off-white barn of a building. As you draw closer you’ll see that, in addition to the main entrance, it is has several large holes knocked in the side. Without these it would be quite dark inside. I guess lights could be used but the power doesn’t appear to be on. There’s no real need, as the expensive machinery and equipment that would be used to automate the garbage sorting and baling is either absent or sitting unused.
So what we have instead is half a dozen workers sorting though piles of rotting garbage by hand.
All the glass, plastic, cardboard etc is picked out by hand to be recycled. What happens to the remainder, I don’t know but given the state of the plant, I somehow doubt it is used to make biogas.
Expect to see more stories in the coming year or two on the need for a new waste disposal plant as the theme that runs through virtually all big budget decisions made by local governments in Thailand is that nothing ever gets done properly the first time. It doesn’t matter if it is a road, a bridge, a garbage plant or whatever.
If it was done right the first time there wouldn’t be any more kickbacks to be had. The original plans and ideas are often pretty good, but getting something done the way it was originally intended usually takes a couple of attempts, spread over a period of a few years.
So for those of you who wonder where your garbage ends up . . . . enjoy!