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Thailand

From plastic bottles to monks' robes

A Thai Buddhist monastery is leading a recycling drive to clean up the environment

From plastic bottles to monks' robes

Phra Maha Pranom Dhammalangkaro, the abbot of a Buddhist monastery in Samut Prakan province, near Bangkok, stands by piles of waste brought for recycling to his temple. (Photo: Tibor Krausz) 

The Buddhist monastery of Wat Chak Daeng sprawls across scenic, leafy ground on a bank of the meandering Chao Phraya River.

Yet at first glance the temple in Samut Prakan province, near Bangkok, looks less like a place of worship than a recycling plant.

For starters, greeting visitors by the gate are growing mounds of discarded plastic bottles. Among the piles of plastic waste, local volunteers busy themselves sorting a variety of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles into neat piles. Nearby, a man is operating a machine that crushes colorless water bottles so that they can be packed into big blocks.

“I come here every day,” says Parichart Seajeng, a heavyset middle-aged housewife who removes caps from drinks bottles and pours leftover liquids from them into a bucket. “My kids are grown and I have nothing much to do at home. I can be of use here.”

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