Zero-waste market a hit with southern Thai villagers


Many in Thailand could learn a thing or two from a plantation owner in southern Patthalung province, who opened a zero-waste market in her village, where merchants wrap products in banana leaves, lotus leaves, coconut shells, and other natural substances to the delight of consumers.

“Here, we do not use plastic containers. Sweets, foods, and beverages arrive in natural containers such as banana leaves, lotus leaves, Nypa palm leaves, coconut shells and bamboo wood,” said Kwanjai Klapsuksai, a bamboo plantation owner who opened the ‘Bamboo Forest for Happiness Market’ two years ago.

Thailand’s government, private sector, and its people have become increasingly aware of the problem of waste and pollution and have been adopting measures to move towards a greener economy and way of life.

The local level, however, is where changes take firm hold, and the Bamboo Forest for Happiness Market is a shining example of villagers taking an entrepreneurial lead in creating a sustainable way of doing business and caring for the community.

The market has about 200 vendors mostly selling food, sees about $30,000 in turnover each day from an average of 10,000 visitors, and has won several awards from the provincial government for green policies and practices.

Aside from shunning as much plastic as possible and completely banning Styrofoam, the market has set up recycling bins in which trash – food, paper, plastic, aluminum – are sorted and sold to recycling plants and rubbish scavengers for reuse.

Used food containers made from paper, leaves, and other natural materials are transformed into items such as milk boxes.  Kwanjai’s team burns used bamboo cups into charcoal for use by villagers, and those made from plant leaves are converted into organic fertilizers for farmers and gardeners.

The market is now attracting tourists in addition to locals. When they visit, Kwanjai explains to them the benefits of the various types of bamboo she grows.

“Bamboo can be turned into many, many products ranging from food, medicines, clothing, buildings and so on,” Kwanjai says.

Photo courtesy of (Photos by Asawin Pakkawan)