Netizens vow to reduce trash during Loy Krathong by calling for ceremonies from home

The hashtag, #งดลอยกระทง63, trended on Thai Twitter on Friday as netizens came together to campaign against the waste produced during the festival each year.

The hashtag is already gaining momentum, with over 135k Tweets on Friday. The festival will occur on Saturday.

During the past few weeks, many have gone online to voice their concerns over the waste and pollution produced by Loy Krathong each year.

A now waste-filled tradition?

Loy Krathong is one of Thailand’s oldest and most celebrated festivals, which is derived from Tai, Chinese, and Indian traditions.

The name could be translated as “to float ritual vessel or lamp,” and comes from the tradition of making krathong (buoyant), decorated baskets, which are then released into the river.

Every year, Thais will gather by the banks of the river throughout the country to float krathongs, in an act of service to thank the Goddess of Water, the Hindu Goddess of Ganga, Phra Mae Khongkha, for providing them with water sources. 

Media reports and public concerns over years, however, have talked about how Loy Krathong today releases over 60 tonnes of waste, with a nationwide cleanup always taking place the day after, and how the tradition hurts the very water and environment it aims to worship.

Popular Thai environment activist page and website Environman, which was started by a group of university students, also stated how much damage Loy Krathong does to the environment each year.

“Nowadays, our krathongs are harming rivers and aquatic life — completely countering the intention of this tradition,” the page said. “From the data provided from Bangkok, it was found that since 2012, the amount of Krathongs collected as rubbish in the city is over one million per year.”

Garbage, even the biodegradable ones, take a very long time to dissolve and take away the oxygen from the water. This causes significant repercussions to the livelihoods and habitat of aquatic animals, who may end up eating away at the garbage or have to live within waters that will start to become contaminated.

Waste management along the entire water system also requires a lot of resources and always ends up  releasing debris into the sea, according to the page. Many waste ultimately get stuck inside drainage channels, water banks, and mangrove forests, which are all vital sources of life for aquatic animals and plants.

People place krathongs, or floating baskets, in a pond to mark the annual Loy Krathong festival in Bangkok on November 11, 2019. – Loy Krathong takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai calendar, which usualy falls in November. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP)

A way out

However, recent years have seen many efforts to reduce such damage. Citizens and environmental organizations have campaigned for new, creative ways to combat this problem — by creating biodegradable krathongs made out of banana cloves, krathongs made out of bread, doing Loy Krathong at home. 

“Let’s continue together again this year! To reduce the amount of waste that will be mixed up in surface water sources (แหล่งน้ำเปิด) — especially in rivers and canals during Loy Krathong that will be happening this October 31,” Environment said. “We would like to call upon provincial governors across the country, as well as private government agencies to set a good example for people by not managing or hosting Loy Krathong festivals in surface water sources. Surface water sources are the channels that allow waste to flow into the sea.”

Many people are also now suggesting how to Loy Krathong without creating rubbish and waste in the water.

Particularly, young, tech-savvy Thais have found a more innovative and useful way to Loy Krathong without even touching the waters at all — by doing it online.

Many netizens have also come out to commend this campaign, applauding young Thais for expressing concern over the environment and pollution and taking the necessary steps to minimize the damage.

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