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Fighting food waste in Thailand 

December 8, 2020

Much of Thailand's food ends up on the garbage heap. It's a waste and bad for the climate. Now the country is trying to improve its trash management system and make it more environmentally friendly.

A man stands on a pile of garbage
Image: Felix Nuhr/DW

Fighting food waste in Thailand

Project goal: Establishing a climate-friendly public and private model for waste and sewage systems.

Project implementation: Setting up official waste and communal sewage management systems in four target regions. Expanding the country's database for monitoring waste and sewage management.

Partner organizations: Pollution Control Department, Thailand's national environment authority and German development agency, GIZ.

Project duration: January 2018 to December 2021.

Budget: €3 million out of €17.9 million provided for the "Thai-German Climate Programme" by Germany's Environment Ministry within the framework of its International Climate Initiative (IKI).

Food waste is a global problem. Annually, some 1.3 billion tons of often still edible food ends up in the garbage. Thailand isn't immune to the problem.

Relatively cheap food and poor trash collection and recycling systems mean that likely millions of tons of waste aren't properly treated. Exact numbers are difficult to come by, partly because only a fifth of the Southeast Asian country's 2,500 landfills are "official" and the rest are unregulated. This lack of data on the problem also makes it difficult to implement solid policies to reduce food waste.

Discarded food is not only a waste of the resources that went into producing it, it's bad for the climate too. Organic trash left to rot at dumpsites releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is much more effective than CO2 at trapping heat. The United Nations also wants to halve food wastage by 2030 as part of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals toward a more sustainable and equal world.

Now Thailand is taking action. The country's environment authority, the Pollution Control Department (PCD) and German development agency, GIZ, are working to introduce waste, recycling and sewage solutions to help reduce pollution and emissions.

A film by Felix Nuhr