Thailand turning plastic waste into PPE

Thailand has taken an innovative approach to plastic waste turning used plastic bottles into personal protective equipment (PPE) to shield volunteers and health care workers against COVID-19 infection.

“There are times when it is very difficult to get PPE suits,” said Phra Maha Pranom Dhammalangkaro, Abbot of Chakdaeng temple near Bangkok. “But now we are making them by upcycling plastic bottles, so what is trash is now valuable.”

The monks have collected millions of plastic bottles and given them to a garment factory that shredded and turned them into threads. The threads are then weaved into fabrics, and used for PPE for hospitals and Buddhist temples, where monks have been cremating coronavirus victims.

At the temples, volunteers sew the plastic-based fabrics into protective suits that are dyed the orange or saffron color similar to the robes worn by Buddhist monks. The volunteer seamstresses and tailors then ship the garb to thousands of temples around the Kingdom.

Some monks have been venturing into slums and other poor areas to deliver food and medicines and provide spiritual comfort to those suffering from the coronavirus.

“We’re saving lives and the environment concurrently,” the Abbot said.

The textile company donating the plastic-based fabrics is Thai Taffeta, which normally produces fabrics for major global brands. An executive with the firm said it had used 18 million plastic bottles since the middle of last year to make the PPE.

Thailand is one of the countries where increasing awareness of the problem has sparked government and business to begin shifting towards circular economy principles and sustainability as a paradigm for development.

Photo courtesy of