Waste to energy industry: the plight of waste management in Thailand


Bangkok Art and Cultural Center · Bangkok

How to find us

From BTS National Stadium, find a junction going to BACC (in front of MBK). Seajunction is in the 4th floor of BACC building.

Location image of event venue


As the human demand for consumption and growth continues, the imperative to manage the associated waste is a matter of both global concern as well as opportunity. Solutions for recycling waste into a variety of energy sources has matured into a thriving industry. In 2017 the global waste to energy (WtE) market was valued at $17,271.4 million and is estimated to reach $27,700.8 million by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 6.1% from 2018 to 2025.

Waste to energy is one of the most effective and robust alternative sources of energy, which helps in reducing CO2 emissions and thus, replaces the use of fossil fuels. Using waste as a combustion substance is expected to reduce landfill volumes by more than 90%.

World population growth and the rise in landfill levels are projected to present numerous opportunities for the expansion of the market. Surge in demand for renewable sources of energy globally, increase in investment by governments to enhance energy production, and usage of other renewable energy sources as substitutes to reduce the carbon content is expected to boost the overall growth of the global waste to energy market. However, issues surrounding the environmental implications and high costs associated with plant installation and infrastructure of expensive components may hamper the overall market growth.

Though attracted by the lure of this lucrative industry in recent decades, Thailand seems to struggle in its management of waste. Like other Asian countries, Thailand tries to deal with the waste reduction strategy in order to minimize the environmental risk. The optimal methodology of zero waste technology is the key issue under consideration. Here are some highlights of the waste management and waste-to-energy industry in Thailand.

First, government's policies to promote the waste-to-energy industry like the installation of small waste-to-energy plants only encourage the country to become the "garbage bin of the world".

Second, waste-to-energy industry has prompted the Kingdom to get bumped by the plastic and electronic waste imported to the Kingdom. Thailand is among five Asian countries --together with China, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines -- that are responsible for more than half of the 8 million tons of plastic waste dumped into the world's oceans every year, according to a 2015 Ocean Conservancy Report.

Third, the small size of the waste-to-energy projects, now being promoted by the government, is not balanced by the appropriate and qualified pollution control measures.

Fourth, lack of waste segregation was another big problem in Thailand. The last crackdown on illegal 26 illegal e-waste factories with almost 37,000 tons of waste seems to be a peak of iceberg of waste management problem in the world, particularly in South-East Asia.

With countries such as the US and the UK already relying on south-east Asia to pick up the e-waste and plastic waste slack in the wake of China's ban – in the past four months alone, UK exports of plastic to Thailand have risen fiftyfold – this presents a serious problem. In Hong Kong and Singapore, where most of the world's e-waste is sent before it is bounced to less-developed countries, there is already a backlog of e-waste in shipping containers. If South-East Asian countries do not take it, it has nowhere to go.

In the long term, will a ban on e-waste imports across South-East Asia be necessary? What will be at stake? Do our governments only seek the economic growth to the detriment of the common good of the citizens? Is the so-called 3R strategy (Reuse, Reduce and Recycle) still the prime key to influence Waste to Energy Methodology without any leftover hazard wastes behind? Is "war on plastics" possible in South-East Asia?
Guest Speaker and Subject Matter Expert:

Mrs Natchiya, a Thai researcher in Environmental Studies will come to share all her findings and offer a critical reflection on the issues at stake.