Where: Phuket, Thailand
Project: Beach cleanups
At the southwestern tip of the ‘land of smiles’ lays Phuket, Thailand’s largest island that features several of the country’s most popular beaches. The terrain is mountainous with rainforests and cliffs overlooking the clear, turquoise waters. Consequently, as with any popular tourist destination, the beautiful beaches of Phuket are becoming over-crowded and the island is quickly becoming urbanized with little plans for green spaces. The rice fields and lush wetlands that once covered the region have been replaced with concrete landscapes and rows of shops catered towards tourists.
Thailand’s tourism has been steadily growing for the past 8 years, with no stopping in sight. Currently, there are over 1 million tourists per month visiting Phuket alone, making the ratio of foreigners to Thais 5 to 1. The local economy has greatly benefited Phuket, however, the increasing pollution is concerning. The most popular beach, Patong Beach, suffers the worst pollution in Phuket (as reported by the Pollution Control Department of the Thai government). After rainfall, sewage run-off is washed out into the ocean and the beach becomes a hazard to health.
Fortunately, there is hope for Phuket. The city’s hotel association has a plan of action targeting the reduction of plastic use, solving the garbage crisis being washed up on its shores and educating staff, local communities and tourists. Additionally, several nonprofits have formed with one goal in mind: to keep Thailand’s beaches clean. These heroic nonprofits include: Keep Thailand Clean, dedicated to inspiring others to clean up Thailand’s countryside; Clean The Beach Bootcamp, an initiative to giving free fitness and yoga classes to participants who clean up the beach; and Smart Beach Project, a global data collection of community groups reporting on specific beach pollution sites.
We at Elemental Affairs made our own efforts to reduce the pollution by cleaning up Kata Beach, just south of Patong. We picked up over 70 lbs of trash, most of which were single use plastics and tobacco related products. There were also several broken sandals and styrofoam, which is essentially made from plastic materials and a known carcinogen. With this awareness and the efforts of local nonprofits, we believe that Phuket can be restored to the pristine oasis it once was.