Temples and PTT making monks’ robes from plastic bottles

The saffron-colored robes of Thailand’s Buddhist monks may soon be made of plastic, as a temple near Bangkok and PTT Global Chemical, a division of the state energy conglomerate, are collaborating to the robes from discarded plastic bottles.

Wat Chak Daeng temple in Samut Prakarn province just outside of Bangkok has been collecting plastic bottles from its parishioners and from offices in Bangkok to make monks’ robes. The community has shown support for the project as parishioners see it as a way to both support their religion and protect the environment at the same time.

Thailand, along with most countries, has a severe plastic pollution problem. The public has become increasingly aware of the consequences of plastic use after learning about possible deaths of marine life from consuming too much plastic while feeding in the oceans.

The Thai government, industry, and the public have launched a variety of measures and campaigns to try and tackle the environmental threat from plastic pollution.

The involvement of a house of worship is a testament to the socially and environmentally engaged form of Buddhism practiced by many temples in Thailand.

The temple collects, separates, and cleans the bottles, then transports them to a factory run by PTT Global Chemical where the bottles are upcycled into a form of polyester and mixed with cotton.

The results are robes that are cooler than traditional ones and does not trap sweat, making them more comfortable to wear.

Famous fashion designers such as Geoffrey Beene and others have made clothing using plastics as a base ingredient. Thailand may be the first country, however, to use similar processes to make monks’ robes from the material once thought to be a boon but that now threatens the environment.