Recycling in a Thai Village

Life in a Thai village is, for the most part, a wonderful life experience full of adventure, amusement and peace. Like life anywhere though there are negatives and for me one of the big annoyances is rubbish.

When I first started visiting my wife’s village any rubbish left laying around would occasionally be swept into a pile and burnt. The smell of leaves, twigs and plastic is not something a perfume company is likely to recreate anytime soon. Rubbish that could be recycled was and there was piles of the stuff cluttering up the village waiting for the recycling truck to come by which only seemed to happen once every few months.

When we started spending more time in the village I refused to burn any of our rubbish and would store it in plastic bags until we made the 30 minute trip to the nearest town that had a rubbish removal service. Once kids came along this started to prove a smelly option as nappies (diapers) tend to give off quite a smell and for some reason the recycling truck wasn’t interested in them! A combination of a sealable bin downstairs plus more regular trips to town solved that problem.

Although out village has gone from a car ownership of one ten years ago to about six or seven now taking your rubbish to town is still out of reach for the majority and so the terrible burning still happens. Often it will waft right through my house and get right up my nose, literally and figuratively! I really notice how bad it is when I travel to the city of Ubon Ratchathani or Bangkok or even back to Australia and go to put on a clean shirt only to have my nostrils assaulted with the scent of this type of Thai Napalm.

It is not all negative though – there has been one improvement. The recycling truck now comes through the village at least a few times a week and it is really interesting to watch people load up their boxes and bottles in return for a few baht paid on the spot.


There are lots of interesting goodies to be found in the back of one of the oldest utes (pick up) you have ever seen.


The lady who services our little village is always full of smiles and jokes which can’t always be easy given the job she does. Not only does she take away my rubbish but her smiles lights up my day as well.


The night before I took these photos my visiting Australian friend Dan and I had knocked off a couple of bottles of Thailand’s finest (Leo) so to show him how the system worked we walked across the street to the smiling lady and handed her the bottles. She thought it was hilarious having two foreigners handing her a few bottles of beer and giggled when she handed me a few coins in return. We quickly realised that there was no chance we could support another evening tipple by recycling as we would have to recycle 160 bottles to be able to afford to buy just one beer!

Obviously there is some money in the game as there are thousands of these vehicles driving all over the country taking away some of our rubbish and for that I am very thankful.

3 responses to “Recycling in a Thai Village

  1. Pingback: Recycling in a Thai Village | Isaan Five O

  2. Hi MeMock,,
    Like you I am retired and living in Thailand, out in the sticks, as people say, about 25 km outside of Phimai, Nakhon Ratchasima.
    It seems that everyone in the village sweeps around their house and burns their rubbish at dusk time as a method of keeping the mosquito’s away.
    We usually have 2 or 3 trucks driving slowly through the village every day collecting recyclable rubbish.The mother in law is glad to be able to “weigh in” all my empty Chang bottles. The “collectors” seem keen to weigh everything, even scrap paper / cardboard before handing over up to a couple of hundred baht.
    Now that I understand the reason for the nightly little bonfires, it does seem to make sense,,,,,, although I don’t reckon that you could have such fires in a town.
    Regards Ray Taylor

    • Hi Ray, thanks so much for dropping in with a comment. I always love hearing from people who haven’t commented before. I had heard the mosquito theory before as well but have never been all that sure that it works or not as there are still a few around our village but perhaps there would be more if they did not burn. Mind you the lady behind my house tends to do it in the middle of the day and right when the breeze is blowing my way!
      I think bottles are the only thing that isn’t weighed although i could be wrong. I do sometimes wonder who accurate those old beat up scales are!

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