Thais going green on traditional Loy Krathong holiday

Environmental consciousness has seeped into the traditional Thai holiday of Loy Krathong as the number of Thais making floats from Styrofoam has dropped dramatically in favor of natural materials to avoid polluting canals, rivers and other bodies of water.

Loy Krathong is a centuries-old Siamese festival that falls at the end of the rainy season in which Thais pay homage to the water goddess by constructing small floats traditionally made from leaves, decorated with flowers and topped with a candle. They then release these floats, or ‘krathong,’ onto rivers, canals, lakes, the sea and even swimming pools.

Each candle carries with it a prayer, memory or wish, and people hope the waters will carry away their misfortunes. The ritual symbolizes a new beginning.

Some consider it the most beautiful of all Thai holidays as waterways are filled with candlelight and floats of flowers such as orchids and marigolds.

With the pressures of modern life, however, more and more floats have been bought at markets and their bases made from Styrofoam or other non-natural materials. Because those materials are not biodegradable, waterways were clogged with Styrofoam and other debris.

Thais are more environmentally aware, especially about marine pollution and plastic pollution. The government, the private sector, and individuals have all been making efforts to reduce plastic pollution and embrace sustainability.

That has resulted in more krathongs of the classic variety, made from banana or pandan leaves and flowers.

In Bangkok, Governor Aswin Kwanmuang oversaw an army of city workers gathering up the krathongs from the capital’s waterways the day after Loy Krathong, which coincided with the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States.

He said 796,444, or 94.7 percent, of krathongs, were made from natural and biodegradable materials. The other 44,883, or 5.3 percent, were Styrofoam-based.

The governor pledged that the authorities would sustain their campaign to discourage Styrofoam and other krathongs made from artificial materials.

Last week, Thailand’s Tesco Lotus retail and hypermarket chain also joined the anti-plastic pollution efforts, announcing that it will stop giving out plastic shopping bags and offer customers bags made from recycled paper. Tesco Lotus has over 2,000 outlets across the Kingdom.

The company also said it had entered into a partnership with SCG Packaging, part of the Thai building materials conglomerate that is the largest in Southeast Asia, to adopt practices in line with the “circular economy.”

The circular economy emphasizes recycling, reuse and wise use of natural resources.