Thailand is among the top plastic polluters in the world, but seeking to change that, a Buddhist temple in the south of Bangkok is recycling thousands of plastic bottles and turning them into sacred orange robes for the monks.
Over the last two years, monks at the recycling temple of Wat Chak Daeng have crushed 40 tons (88,000 lb) of plastic as part of a program aiming to curb plastic waste entering the Chao Phraya River, which flows south to the Gulf of Thailand in the western Pacific Ocean.
Unlike most temples where people give monks alms like food and clothes, devotees ride bicycles here asking for plastic bags and bottles in exchange for blessings from the temple’s abbot.
The temple has produced at least 800 sets of robes, with more in production stages. Each set sells for between 2,000 baht ($65.79) and 5,000 baht ($164.47), which is used to keep funding the project and pay waste-sorting volunteers, many of whom are local housewives, retirees, and disabled persons.
With Thailand being the fifth largest contributor of plastic to the world’s oceans, the monks are not only diverting a good amount of plastic from reaching the environment but are also raising awareness in their communities about the urgent issue.