Trying to attempt Zero Waste travel whilst in Thailand can be a difficult feat when the tap water is undrinkable and everything seems to come in plastic. To make things easier for you, I’ve compiled this Zero Waste Thailand guide filled with sustainable tips and tricks to take the stress out of staying plastic free during your holiday.
Thailand is a popular tourist destination famous for its tropical beaches, ornate temples and cheap shopping. What isn’t advertised however are the litter lined beaches and trash floating amongst some of the most famous islands in the world.
The tap water in Thailand, as in most of Southeast Asia is undrinkable. However there are multiple ways you can avoid having to buy countless numbers of plastic water bottles during your stay in Thailand.
DIY: If you have access to a kettle, boil tap water for one minute to disinfect any nasty bugs which could make you sick.
Osmosis Water Refill Stations: Top up your reusable water bottle for a couple cents at public water refills.
Free Water Refills: Many restaurants and hotels offer free water refills for guests and customers.
Returnable Water Containers: 20 litre water bottles are available at some convenience stores which can be returned for your deposit back or a new bottle.
Buying in Bulk: Smaller 6L water bottles are available at every convenience store across Thailand however these must be recycled or self-filled once used.
Trash Hero is an organisation dedicated to sustainability and cleaning up local communities. They have partnered up with establishments around Thailand to provide free drinking water refills to anyone brandishing Trash Hero water bottles. Check out the full list here of where to fill up your Trash Hero bottle for free.
Local markets are the best option for Zero Waste shopping when looking for food in bulk and package free products. Thailand is famous of its markets and you don’t have to go far to find various markets in every location. Hunt for the old school shop keepers who preserve the methods of using natural material to wrap food products as such leaves or bamboo, or bring your own reusable bags with you. Snacks and foods of all varieties can be found in bulk including nuts, fruits, cakes, sweets, deep fried bugs and scorpions. Listed below are a couple of Zero Waste Thailand stores in various location you can visit along with local markets.
Zero Waste Essentials
When attempting Zero Waste travel through Thailand there are a couple Zero Waste essentials you should bring with you to avoid waste on the go.
Reusable Water Bottle: Avoid getting sick and buying plastic water bottles by bringing your own reusable bottle to be refilled at various locations (as mentioned above).
Reusable Carry Bag: Shop keepers will automatically hand you a plastic bag for your shopping, whether it be a single keychain or ten. Pack a foldable carry bag which you can easily stuff into your pockets to avoid the plastic bags at every turn.
Reusable Container: Street food is the best way to experience Thai culture but disposable plastic is always part of the equation.
Spork: Pack a foldable spork to slip into your pocket or bag to avoid using plastic cutlery.
Reusable Cup: Iced drinks are popular in Thailand to compete with the tropical heat but always come in a plastic cup even if you are dining in to enjoy it. Bringing along a reusable cup helps you stay cool and hydrated whilst avoiding the unnecessary waste.
Metal/Bamboo Straw: Pair your reusable cup with a metal/bamboo straw which you can even buy for cheap at some Thai markets.
Zero Waste Bangkok
Better Moon Café x Refill Station: Bangkok’s first bulk store provides Zero Wasters with refill options and eco-friendly products to help them on their journey to Litterless Living.
Zero Baht Store: An innovative store adopting the intriguing concept of using recyclable materials as payment for snacks and household items. Payment can be made with glass, paper, aluminium, plastic bottles and drink cartons.
Public Transport: Bangkok is a huge city and walking in the tropical heat can be tough. There are a couple options for public transport including riding above the traffic on the Sky Train or catching the MRT.
Clean-Up: Trash Hero Bangkok meets every month, usually at Taco Lake and are involved in community projects around Bangkok. Check out their Facebook page for up to date details.
Zero Waste Phuket
Zero Waste Phuket Store: A brand new Zero Waste store in Phuket stocked with refillable and eco-friendly products for all your Zero Waste needs.
Getting around: Take a ride on a rickshaw which uses man power to get around, however do be prepared to bargain a price before jumping in. It may not be the fastest way to get around but you can enjoy the slower pace by soaking in the local sights.
Clean-Up: Trash Hero holds a clean-up very weekend in Phuket, check out their Facebook page for more details.
Zero Waste Koh Samui
Water: Koh Samui has public water refill stations on every corner so refilling your reusable water bottle is a breeze.
Volunteer with Animals: There is a large population of stray dogs and cats which run wild on Koh Samui Island. Two rescue centres Pariah Dog and Dog and Cat Rescue Samui, help these animals which become injured or ill. Pop in and visit the centres to spend some quality time with these beautiful animals and help out where you can.
Samui Elephant Sanctuary (SES): Get up close and personal (but not too personal) with these gentle giants, in a sanctuary where they can spend the rest of their lives care free. After the nightmares of the logging industry, circus, unethical tourism and cruelty, these beautiful creatures can finally rest and you have the opportunity to observe and feed them in their natural environment. The elephants’ welfare is top priority at SES and no rides, bathing, trunk hugs, shows, overcrowding or sitting/lying on the elephants is allowed, to give these creatures their personal space. This is a truly ethical and sustainable elephant sanctuary, where you can rest assured the elephants are loved and cared for.
Beach Clean Up: Trash Hero Koh Samui runs beach clean ups every Sunday at 3pm, check out their Facebook page for details on their next event. If you want to know more about our personal experience participating with the Koh Samui Beach Clean-Up check out my post here.
Zero Waste Koh Kood (Koh Kut)
The only place not selling 6 litre water bottles is Koh Kood, however the bigger 20 litre returnable bottles can be found at larger convenience stores and returned for your deposit.
While the Zero Waste movement is still foreign to Koh Kood, they do have an effective recycling program. Locals collect plastic bottles and aluminium cans which are exchanged for a small profit and shipped off the island to be recycled on the main land.
Zero Waste Koh Tao
One of the most eco-friendly destinations in Thailand is Koh Tao. Funny enough the island does not provide public refills or 20 litre water bottles, so you’ll have to find yourself a hotel or dive school giving out free water refills or buy the 6 litre water bottles.
Restaurants: The Zero Waste movement has started to spread all over Koh Tao and multiple restaurants are offering reusable straws and ditching disposable plastic. Below are is a short list of establishments with Zero Waste ethics.
Zero Waste Store: Gaia Organic Living and Zero Waste is the first Zero Waste store on Koh Tao Island offering bulk food, spices, household products and health foods, along with plastic free cosmetics and other eco-friendly products.
Eco-Friendly Diving: With a long history of sustainability and marine conservation at its core, New Heaven Dive School offers eco-friendly diving in one of the world’s most beautiful locations. Whether you’re new to diving or looking to advance your skills and help out with their multiple conservation programs, New Heaven is the perfect place to do so with their small groups and family vibe. Check out our personal experience here completing our Open Scuba Diving certificate.
Beach Ocean Clean-Up: Every month the diving schools around Koh Tao come together to conduct a clean-up on the beach and under water. Ask your local diving centre when the next clean-up will be held. Trash Hero Koh Tao also meets every Saturday at 10am for a weekly beach clean.
Zero Waste Chang Mai
Do you have any Zero Waste tips or places in Thailand that I may have missed? Feel free to let me know or ask questions in the comments below.