From 2002: Foam is better than biodegradable for Loy Krathong

[2014 note: Like many Thai newspaper articles from the early days of the Thai internet, this article is no longer online. Below is the complete text of the original article.]

Samak takes swipe at anti-foam lobby – Plodprasop should know better, he saysBangkok Post, November 15, 2002

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Apiradee Treerutkuarkul

Bangkok governor Samak Sundaravej has blasted Plodprasop Suraswadi, the permanent secretary for natural resources and the environment, for calling on people not to use styrofoam floats during the Loy Krathong festival.
“I can’t believe he still lacks experience on styrofoam usage,” said Mr Samak.
“It would be easier to clean up the river if people use krathongs with styrofoam stuffed inside. Krathongs made of banana leaves would sink faster and decompose, making the water dirty,” he said.
“Why doesn’t anyone care about daily foam use? It does no harm to use styrofoam floats for just one day,” he said.
Environmental activists would be better campaigning against styrofoam use in daily activities, such as styrofoam lunchboxes and air conditioning units.
City staff were preparing 55 boats to clean up the rivers within a day of Loy Krathong next Tuesday.
Styrofoam retrieved from the river would be sent to a recycling factory for making lifeboats to rescue people during flooding.
The chief of the Environmental Quality Promotion Department said natural materials would be better than non-degradable foam.
Environmental Quality Promotion Department head Sirithan Pairojboriboon said the department supported natural materials, as recycling styrofoam was hard.
Only 2% of foam garbage created in the past two years was recycled, since the rest was too dirty and there was only one factory to accept it for recycling.
“Natural materials will not sink immediately but they can be picked up within 1-2 days,” he said.
Krathongs made of foam were lighter than those made of natural materials so they would be taken quickly to the sea and stay there for decades.
Use of foam in making krathongs has increased almost 20% in the past two years.
“The city picked up 150,000 krathongs last year. The foam rubbish needed space equivalent to almost 2,000 tonnes of organic garbage,” Mr Sirithan said.
Maneerat Chanthanapalin, an associate professor of Rajabhat Institute Suan Dusit, agreed with the department chief, saying it would be good if styrofoam garbage could be used for filling up holes on roads or making bricks.
She also urged people, especially youngsters, to refrain from singing the song Wan Loy Krathong wrongly by adding words to the traditional lyrics, like some singers did.

Foam floats in city parksBangkok Post, November 4, 2003

Loy Krathong revellers are free to use any materials for their floats this year, including styrofoam, as long as they celebrate outside the city’s parks, Bangkok governor Samak Sundaravej said yesterday.
Those wishing to release krathongs in ponds at city parks must use only foam material, he said.
The parks will remain open till 10pm and all floats will be removed by midnight.
Mr Samak, who has long been at odds with environmentalists over the environmentally unfriendly styrofoam floats, asked the media not to project him as foam afficionado.
“Please do not say I am for styrofoam. Use any material you like. But if you want to celebrate the festival in the city’s parks, please use foam floats only as they do not sink and are easy to collect when the festival is over,” he said.

Gulf cluttered with 30,000 foam floats

Loy Krathong revellers polluted the Gulf of Thailand with at least 30,000 styrofoam floats, the Natural Resources and Environment permanent secretary said.
Floats could become trapped in ship engines or stuck in coral reefs, or be washed ashore to spoil the coastline, said Plodprasop Suraswadi.
Mr Plodprasop is at odds with Bangkok governor Samak Sundaravej’s promotion of styrofoam floats.

Commentary: S a n i t s u d a E k a c h a i

On Loy Krathong day on Tuesday, my seven-year-old daughter walked out of school at the end of the day with a small float in her hand. It was made of styrofoam and was complete with paper decorations.
“I’m ready for Loy Krathong tonight,” she declared.
“But your float is made of foam. And you know that it’s bad for the environment, don’t you?” I asked.
She looked lost. Then she fired back: “But my teacher said foam is better. It’s light and easy for the clean up afterward. The floats made from banana trunks sink fast and they make the water rot.”
Why get upset, you may ask. As a mother, I should just explain to my daughter that styrofoam is very difficult to recycle and it stays in the environment for hundreds of years, so it’s better to use natural materials to makefloats.

Foam floats torpedoed by activists

Conservation groups have voiced strong objections to the Bangkok governor’s campaigns for the use of styrofoam floats during next month’s Loy Krathong festival.
Srisuwan Chanya, of the Environmental Protection Foundation, said the burning of foam floats would create a health hazard.
Incineration of foam garbage would produce carbon monoxide. Inhaling the toxic substance from the burning method would cause respiratory problems, he pointed out.
Styrofoam materials may be easily produced and convenient for use, but they have a negative impact on the environment, he said.
The Thai Environment and Community Development Association (Magic Eyes) opposes the use of styrofoam in favour of banana trunk and leaf, which degrade naturally.

Joint search for best materials for floats

City officials are trying to prevent another war of words on what makes good floats for next year’s Loy Krathong festival.
“We end up having to collect all the garbage anyway,” said Teerachai Thiensanchai, acting chief of the Public Cleansing Office.
Mr Teerachai said his office would support the proposal to use natural materials such as bread, popcorn, millet, plants and vegetables, because they decomposed easier and became food for aquatic animals.
This would also make it unnecessary for city workers to collect them from rivers after the festival.
Styrofoam krathongs were suitable for ponds in public parks because there they could be easily collected, he said. He said the foam garbage could also be used as road fill.

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