EARTH Thailand

Locals of Tha Than Say “No More” to Recycling Factories

EARTH REPORT 22 December 2022

Citizens of Moo 3 Khok Hua Khao village, Tha Than subdistrict, Phanom Sarakham district, Chachoengsao province put up a banner in front of the local temple saying “NO” to all types of recycling factories, after two years of being impacted by electronic waste (e-waste) recycling factory and waste oil / industrial solvent recycling factory.

The impacts faced by locals of Tha Than could be traced back to the years 2017-2018, when two recycling factories appeared in the community in quick succession. The first, called Banana Disposal, produce alternative/ substitute fuel from waste oil and industrial solvents. The second, called Her Jia Enterprise, recycled electronic waste (e-waste). Based on the time of its appearance, and the fact that much of its shareholders are Chinese nationals, many have raised suspicion that Her Jia’s factory appearance was linked to China’s ban on waste imports in 2018 – a factor which not only led to more waste imports to Thailand, but also more Chinese-owned/ joint ventures recycling factories coming to Thailand’s highly industrialized eastern region.

Both Her Jia and Banana Disposal caused significant distress to locals. Her Jia allegedly burned e-waste and place copper wires out in the open. Despite being ordered to stop operating, Her Jia violated said order more than once. Today, the factory appears to have stopped operating, but its permit is not revoked. Moreover, e-wastes are still left out in the factory.

Banana Disposal’s waste oil operation has caused foul smell for locals, many of whom were farmers. One stated that the water in her well appeared strange ever since the factory came into the area. In late 2020, the Department of Groundwater investigated the issue, and found contamination of the carcinogenic Volatile Organic Compound (VOCs) Vinyl Chloride (carcinogenicity determined by the International Agency for Research on Cancer) in the farmer’s water well. The contamination in that well was as high as 1,789 microgram/liter. Vinyl Chloride was also found in Banana Disposal’s monitoring well at 10,928 microgram/liter. As a result of local opposition, this factory has had to cease operating as well. However, it is unclear if the government has a plan to restore the local groundwater, or holding the polluter(s) accountable.