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Every month in Thailand, citizens gather over 10 tons of plastic waste from all over the country and bring it to a monastery. Here, the plastic goes through a remarkable transformation that serves as an inspiration for how recycling can look at its best! This innovative look at a plastic problem will have you wanting to get a little cozier with your own plastic waste.
In this monastery in Wat Chak Daeng, Thailand, Buddhist monk Phra Maha Pranom Dhammalangkaro is leading a charge to turn plastic waste into robes! For a country whose oceans are among the top ten most polluted in the world, this is a big, big deal.
That’s why, on this edition of Saturdays Around the World, we’re traveling to Thailand to meet this innovator and see how he makes this magic happen!
What if the recycling bin wasn’t the end of your plastic waste’s life, but instead, the beginning of its next exciting journey?
What if you knew that the very same bottle that held your refreshing beverage went on to become a Bluetooth speaker, bench, or join the tons on their way to being woven into monastic robes in Thailand? The products we consider “waste” still have so much life to live! So, to embrace this, one monk has found a way to spin a new tale for the plastic littering his country: by turning plastic into fabric.
The always uplifting and talented creators at Great Big Story take us to meet the person in charge of the whole operation, Phra Maha Pranom Dhammalangkaro, and see how they do it!
Great Big Story seriously never fails to bring us to some remarkable places! If you’d like to see more from them, check out their full library over on YouTube!
How does a plastic bottle become a robe?
When the plastic waste arrives at the temple, it is first sorted by volunteers to gather the PET bottles that can be turned into robes. Those bottles are then cleaned and pressed into bales to be transported to the first of 4 factories that the plastic will make it’s way through before being sent back to the temple as a soft, eco-friendly yarn that can be woven into the saffron colored robes.
A single set of trichiwon–the two part garment worn by monks–uses 60 bottles, and though the end result is often more expensive than most traditional robes, Phra Maha Pranom says, “Although the prices are at least five times higher than typical robes, demand is high. It is because people want to support the eco-friendly saffron robes that can’t be found anywhere else but Wat Chak Daeng.” 2
“Everything doesn’t have to be thrown away. We can collect it and use it to benefit us again.”-Phra Maha Pranom Dhammalangkaro
What if we could move to a place where we design with an item’s life-cycle in mind? A place where our mail can be planted to grow gardens, our waste can generate our energy, and the plastic we’ve used in the past century can be used to its fullest potential—what would happen if that was the norm?
Here are a few others who are innovating ways to give billions of pounds of plastic waste a new life!
From Fish to Fashion: When A Fishing Net Becomes A Hat!
What if we looked at the life cycle of every item we purchased and thought “Where did this come from? What will happen when I’m done with it?” This company has figured out how to solve a problem for a community of fishermen and save wildlife by giving some of the ocean’s most harmful pollution a new, more fashionable, life.Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
What if We Turned Plastic Waste into a Valuable Currency?
The Plastic Bank is turning plastic into money for people around the globe. This idea has the power to end poverty while saving our oceans!Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
Stay open to new possibilities!
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” —Albert Einstein
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- Great Big Story. “How a Buddhist Monk Is Turning Plastic Into Robes.” YouTube, 28 May 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wu23IkOomw&feature=emb_title. Accessed 13 Aug. 2020. ↩
- Bangkok Post Public Company Limited. “Bangkok Post.” Https://Www.bangkokpost.com, 2019, www.bangkokpost.com/life/social-and-lifestyle/1761634/from-humble-plastic-bottles-to-highly-desirable-monks-robes. ↩