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Waste pickers' livelihoods threatened by continued waste imports, Thailand

Hundreds of waste pickers from Thailand's Saleng and Recycle Trader Association (SRTA) gathered in Bangkok during September 2021 to protest outside government offices for the continuous import of foreign waste threatening their livelihoods.


Hundreds of waste pickers from Thailand's Saleng and Recycle Trader Association (SRTA) gathered in Bangkok during September 2021 to protest the continuous import of foreign waste outside government offices [1].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Waste pickers' livelihoods threatened by continued waste imports, Thailand
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Waste privatisation conflicts / waste-picker access to waste
E-waste and other waste import zones
Specific commodities:Domestic municipal waste
Plastic / carton
Project Details and Actors
Project details

According to Greenpeace's 2019 report, the total volume of imported plastic garbage increased from 836,529 tonnes to 2,265,962 tonnes between 2016 and 2018 in the ASESAN region [3].

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Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:1,500,000 people
Start of the conflict:06/09/2022
Relevant government actors:Pollution Control Department
Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment
Department of Industrial Works
Ministry of Industry
Customs Department
Ministry of Commerce
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Saleng and Recycle Trader Association (SRTA)
Ecological Alert Recovery Thailand (EARTH)
Greenpeace Thailand
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Trade unions
Wastepickers, recyclers
Forms of mobilization:Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsPotential: Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Other socio-economic impactsDisruption of the local recycling industry
Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Negotiated alternative solution
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Proposal and development of alternatives:"Moving towards a single-use plastic-free world" (Greenpeace, 2019 [11])

ASEAN should work together to enforce a region-wide ban on all imports of plastic waste, even those meant for "recycling", and ensure all ASEAN countries ratify the Basel Ban Amendment. Governments should incentivise and support domestic markets of sorting and recycling plastic waste, taking into account circularity. ASEAN Member States need to: Establish a regional policy geared toward massively reducing the production of single-use plastic packaging and products. ASEAN should also establish strict enforcement and monitoring of plastic waste trade within the region in order to deter illegal waste trade.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The government increased the minimum purchase price of waste paper from 0.5 baht (US$0.01) to over two baht (US$0.06) per kg in February 2020, satisfying the Saleng. Although this is not a long-term solution, it could help to solve the urgent needs of this vulnerable group of people.
Sources & Materials

[1] Thai trash collectors threatened by continued waste imports, by Luke Duggleby - China Dialogue, 08/12/2021
[click to view]

[2] Waste not, want not, by Suwitcha Chaiyong - Bangkok Post, 26/10/2020
[click to view]

[3] Southeast Asia’s Struggle Against the Plastic Waste Trade, by Greenpeace Southeast Asia - Greenpeace, 18/06/2019
[click to view]

[4] Plastic waste still an issue, by Bangkok Post Editorial Column, Bangkok Post, 12/09/2020
[click to view]

[5] National Action Plan on Plastic Waste Management in Thailand, by Wassana Jangprajak - Pollution Control Department Thailand, 24/02/2021
[click to view]

[6] From Saleng to factories: Vulnerabilities & limitations of the recycling business, by Yiamyut Sutthichaya - Prachatai, 24/02/2021
[click to view]

[7] Govt lifts scrap paper price, by Bangkok Post - Bangkok Post, 13/02/2020
[click to view]

[8] NGOs call for a ban on imports of plastic and electronic waste, by Arnika - Arnika Prague, 28/10/2021
[click to view]

[9](in Thai) Oppose the import of plastic scraps petition: 108 civil society networks list,, 08/2021
[click to view]

[10] Informal workers most affected by COVID-19 (2020). by International Labour Organization and UN Thailand, by United Nations, 18/06/2020
[click to view]

[11] Southeast Asia's Struggle against the Plastic Waste Trade, by Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Greenpeace, 18/06/2019
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

EARTH Thailand Facebook page
[click to view]

EARTH Thailand Youtube channel
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Chang-Lin Yiin
Last update02/06/2022
Conflict ID:5852
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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