A study conducted by the Thailand Research and Development Institute (TDRI) in 2020 found that the amount of trash found in Thailand’s seas rank the country among the top 10 in the world. The source of this marine trash comes from the habits of consumers on land, but the effects fall directly on the small and large marine creatures that inhabit the ocean, causing a chain reaction that results in changes to the ecosystem and, eventually, to the lifestyle of people, especially those who live in close proximity to and must therefore coexist with the sea such as the communities in Rayong. To solve the problems caused by marine debris, dependence on community collaboration alone is not enough; it is also the duty of innovation agencies to contribute their knowledge and skills for the sake of mutual progress towards a better future.
The Evolution of the SCG-DMCR Litter Trap: From Collaboration to Prototype
This innovation was born out of a decade of collaboration in the development of environmental conservation projects between SCG Chemicals and the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) and the observation that existing models of litter traps used in the Chao Phraya River exhibited a design flaw that allowed debris to pass through during changing tides, inspiring the idea of integrating a gate which can open and close in response to water flow during high and low tides. And thus the SCG – DMCR Litter Trap: Generation 1 was invented by adapting high-strength and eco-friendly PE100 pipes together with oil booms to create a sort of floatation device.
During the initial implementation of the first model of the floating litter trap in 2018, it was found that this new device functioned effectively, using only renewable energy from nature and the water current, and had the capacity to handle 700 kilograms of litter per unit, thus preventing an immense amount of trash and debris from making its way from the river into the sea. However, there were still durability limitations due to exposure to outdoor conditions such as sun and rain, resulting in the need for frequent replacement.
SCG-DMCR Litter Trap Generation 2 from HDPE-Bone
Over a year’s worth of observation, data collection, and functional analysis of the first generation litter trap were conducted in the development of the SCG-DMCR Litter Trap Generation 2 from HDPE-Bone, which is the latest model and features a new level of efficiency, particularly in the improved durability of its materials and thus became more suitable for use in outdoor conditions, thanks to the application of SCG Floating Solar Solutions pontoons, which are easy to assemble and transport. Originally designed to support solar cells, it offers durability in outdoor conditions such as the daily exposure to intense sun as well as high buoyancy. Furthermore, it is made out of food grade plastic and, therefore, safe for the marine ecosystem, has a lifespan of 25 years, and can be recycled after use.
Improvements have also been made to the frames which extend from the mouth of the buoy in order to channel debris towards the opening. These, along with the continuous force of the current, operate as a mechanism to push the gate at the mouth of the buoy open and efficiently sweep debris inside.
Presently, 37 units of second-generation litter traps have been deployed at the mouths of rivers in 17 provinces throughout Thailand, such as Rayong, Phetchaburi, Surat Thani, Songkhla, Phang Nga, and Krabi, effectively intercepting over 71 tons of trash before they can enter the sea. Further installation of additional traps is planned for 10 locations in Rayong as part of the Waste-Free Community Program, which seeks to foster a culture of mindful consumption and end-to-end waste management with effective collaboration from every sector within the community.
Furthermore, the floating litter trap received a patent in the category of scientific innovation in 2020 thanks to the uniqueness of its hinged opening and closing mechanism, which responds to the tide, thus preventing litter from escaping during the changing of tides and increasing the efficacy of the litter trap in intercepting debris in bodies of water.
When good innovation comes together with good intentions from all sectors to help the community grow and develop sustainably, aside from the significant reduction in the amount of trash and debris entering the sea thanks to floating litter traps and the new value created by recycling post-consumer waste, another layer of benefits is generated for the Rayong community’s local economy, tourism industry, and environment, all of which sustainably contribute to the happiness of the local people.