Controversial Plastic Amulets Inspire Recycling in Thailand

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Thais make amulets from plastic waste
Amulets made from plastic waste in Thailand (Reuters).

Two Thai companies have partnered to produce Buddhist amulets from recycled plastic, rather than from traditional materials like metal or wood, in hopes of motivating wearers to be mindful of the environment.

Amulets featuring Buddha imagery are traditionally worn to bring luck and spirituality.

Reuters reports that the new plastic amulets introduced at Bangkok’s design week exhibition are blessed by monks, thus imbuing them with the same meaning as traditional amulets, but they have another purpose as well: to remind wearers’ of their impact on the environment.

Two Thai companies, Dots Design and Qualy Design, have created the amulets from about one kilogram of plastic each, including plastic from bags, bottle caps, and fishing nets.  The amulets can each be purchased for 100 THB or more, or they can be traded for in exchange for at least one kilogram of plastic each.

Proceeds from the purchase of the amulets go towards charity.

The Thai word for “awareness” appears on each amulet to remind wearers of their connection to the earth. However, not everyone is happy about the talismans. News of the recycled amulets has been met with uncertainty on social media, including questions about whether it is appropriate for religious symbols to be cast from recycled material.

According to The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, only 9% of plastic waste is recycled worldwide. Much of the remaining plastic waste makes its way into rivers, seas, and oceans, where it has serious negative effects on ecosystems, climate change, and human health.

However, the UN is presently drafting a plan to further study the risks pollution poses to health.

Avoiding single-use plastics (like disposable cups and straws) is another way, besides recycling, that plastic waste can be kept from entering our ecosystems.

The Plastic Free Laos initiative works with Lao businesses to reduce single-use plastics, and maintains a list of cafes and hotels offering eco-friendly materials for consumers looking to be more mindful of their plastic waste.