Striving towards Sustainability

A Study on Critical Success Factors of Sustainable Material Recycling in Nonthaburi Municipality, Thailand

Bachelor Thesis, 2015

37 Pages, Grade: 1,7



Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures

List of Abbreviations

1. Introduction

2. The Concept of Sustainability
2.1 Environmental Sustainability
2.2 Material Recycling and its Contribution to Sustainability
2.3 Discussion of the Concept of Sustainability
2.4 The National Concept of Sustainability in Thailand

3. The Methodology ‘Circles of Sustainability’ in the Context of Nonthaburi
3.1 The Methodology ‘Circles of Sustainability’
3.2 Study Area Nonthaburi Municipality in Thailand
3.2.1 Material Recycling in Nonthaburi Municipality
3.2.2 Reasons for Choosing Nonthaburi as Study Area
3.3 Classifying Nonthaburi Municipality’s Material Recycling Performance 14 on the Basis of the Methodology ‘Circles of Sustainability’

4. Success Factors of Sustainability
4.1 Sustainable Material Recycling
4.2 Success Factors of Nonthaburi’s Municipality Material Recycling
4.2.1 Awareness Raising and Knowledge Distribution
4.2.2 Public Participation
4.2.3 Strong Political Will and Effective Governmental Inputs
4.3 Lessons learned and Recommendations
4.4 Problems with Data Collection and Analysis

5. Conclusion

Reference List

List of Tables and Figures

Figure 3.1 The ‘Circles of Sustainability’ methodology: Urban Profile Process

Figure 3.2 The Scale of Judgment of the ‘Circles of Sustainability’ methodology

Figure 3.3 Nonthaburi Municipality’s material recycling performance 15 at the scale of judgment of ‘Circles of Sustainability’ methodology

List of Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

1. Introduction

Similar to other developing countries, Thailand is also confronted with the challenge of reconciling fast economic and population growth and the resulting change in consumption patterns facing limited planetary resources. Struggling with this dispute, many Thai cities are dealing with an increasing amount of waste produced that is improperly disposed. Proper waste disposal is crucial as it is directly linked to health, well-being, quality of life, carbon emission, energy consumption, air quality and income generation. The proper disposal of waste has significant impact on environmental, social, and economic factors; these factors are considered the three pillars of sustainability. Since both the population and the amount of waste are steadily increasing, a proper waste management and recycling strategies need to be developed. Material recycling, meaning material recovery from waste, is a promising strategy for coping with the current waste crisis and moving towards sustainability. Recycling is considered a solid waste management strategy. Waste management includes the ‘collection, transportation, and disposal of garbage, sewage, and other waste products’ and ‘encompasses management of all processes and resources […] from maintenance of waste transport trucks and dumping facilities to compliance with health codes and environmental regulations’ (BusinessDictionary 2015). Recycling can be defined as the ‘act of extracting materials [e.g. newspaper, aluminum, glass] from the waste stream and reusing them.’ It involves, ‘collection, separation, processing, marketing and the creation of new products or material from used products or material’ (Lund 2001, B. 27 & B.28). Recycling a significant fraction of waste leads to notable socio-economic and environmental benefits.

‘In 2013, Thailand approximately generated 26.774 million tons of solid waste. Of the total waste, 53.5% or 14.359 million tons were disposed. Only […] (27.5%) were properly disposed and […] (26%) were improperly disposed. This indicates that of the total waste generated, only 25% was properly disposed […]’ (Pollution Control Department 2013 p. 137).

The numbers of waste generated, produced and disposed of within improper disposal sites are alarming. The Thai Pollution Department (2013, p.137) warns that the state of solid waste disposal in Thailand is a ‘serious and troubling issue due to the lack of a proper waste management system.’ Being confronted with an increasing volume of waste and improper disposal sites (such as open dumping and open burning), Thailand has to find a solution to tackle the occurring waste crisis. One could say that every possible solution to face the occurring waste crisis has to include a proper waste management.

Material recycling is known to have good potential to drive waste management systems towards sustainability and is therefore considered a crucial aspect in the response to the waste crisis. That is why this thesis aims to examine how material recycling programs in particular and sustainability in general can be implemented successfully. For this purpose, the Thai city Nonthaburi Municipality was selected to serve as an example. All sections will concentrate upon the underlying research question: What are the critical success factors of Nonthaburi Municipality’s sustainable material recycling?

In order to find a coherent answer to this thesis’ main research question, the concept of sustainability is presented by focusing on environmental sustainability. Furthermore, it considers how material recycling contributes to overall sustainability. Additionally, the concept of sustainability is discussed and the National Concept of Sustainability in Thailand is portrayed. The sustainability assessment methodology, ‘Circles of Sustainability’ is presented with a focus on the subdomain ‘Emission and Waste.’ After that, the selected study area Nonthaburi Municipality in Thailand with its current material recycling and reasons for choosing the city as a study location are explained. Furthermore, Nonthaburi Municipality’s material recycling is classified on the basis of the methodology ‘Circles of Sustainability’ in order to evaluate if it lives up to its reputation of being effective. Thereafter, critical success factors of Nonthaburi Municipality’s material recycling are presented and are set in the context of material recycling in general. Moreover, lessons learned and recommendations are examined and problems with data collection and analysis are presented.

2. The Concept of Sustainability

‘Environmentalists want environmental systems sustained. Consumers want consumption sustained. Workers want jobs sustained’ (Norgaard 1988, page 607).

Sustainability is a word that lets the environmentally aware among us prick their ears. In the past the term ‘sustainability’ became a watchword used in a wide range of contexts. It is impossible not to encounter the word and the linked concept of sustainability in daily language usage. But what is this sustainability everybody is talking about? What does it mean? What is it all about?

Even trying to find a definition of sustainability becomes a complex matter as almost every organization, governmental body, professional association, academic and practitioner seeks to define what sustainability is. Because each has a different point of view and defined goal, each has a different definition. The word ‘sustainability’ derives from the Latin ‘sus tenere’, which means to ‘hold up’ or to ‘maintain’ (Oxford Dictionary online 2015). Hence, the dictionary definition of the word sustain is ‘to allow something to continue for a period of time’ (Cambridge Dictionary online 2015). This applied definition to the concept of sustainability can be interpreted as allowing the Earth to continue its existence for a period of time. For McMichael, Butler and Folke (2003) ‘sustainability means transforming our ways of living to maximize the chances that environmental and social conditions will indefinitely support human security, well-being, and health. In particular, the flow of non-substitutable goods and services from ecosystems must be sustained.’ Although there is no universally accepted clear-cut definition of sustainability, there is a wide approval on key points that economic, environmental and social issues together with intergenerational equity ought to be considered within the framework of sustainability (Pezzoli 1997). Hence, sustainability can be thought of as a holistic and interdisciplinary concept, encompassing the three aspects ‘economic, environmental and social’.

Sustainability is about creating the appropriate balance between social equity (which refers to issues such as human rights, peace, justice and gender), environmental protection (which refers to the natural environment including agriculture and biodiversity) and economic development (which refers to an understanding of the limits of economic growth and includes responsible consumption, corporate responsibility and employment). Appreciating the links and integrations and creating a balance between those three pillars (also referred to as People, Planet and Profit) is considered to be the crux of the concept of sustainability (Weybrech 2014). All the above-mentioned complex and dynamic interrelations cannot be ‘depicted, much less understood or managed, in any comprehensive way. Appreciation of uncertainty is necessarily also part of the sustainability concept’ (Gibson 2006, p.262). Hence, sustainability, with all its aspects, is a wide and complex concept without a universally accepted definition. Nevertheless, there is one widely used definition of sustainability, which was given by the World Commission of Environment and Development (WCED). In the work ‘Our Common Future’, well known as the Brundtland report, WCED (1987), defined sustainability as development that ‘meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’

Even though this definition has been the most cited ever since, it has its critics. Marshall and Toffel (2005, p.673) critique the reports definition:

‘Developing a global consensus about future needs and abilities seems particularly unlikely, considering how difficult it is to develop a consensus about the current population’s needs and abilities. Absent any practical way of developing a common vision about future generation’s needs and abilities, the Brundtland Commission’s definition appears unhelpful in evaluation the sustainability implications of current decisions.’

2.1.1 Environmental Sustainability

‘On one of his journeys Emperor Maximilian II. encounters a farmer in Italy, who is planting date palms. Considering the fact that palm trees need 100 years until they bear fruits, Emperor Maximilian II. asks the farmer astonished: “Midget, what are you doing?” “I am doing it [in order to] please God and the descendants”, replies the farmer’ (Carlowitz & Hamsberger 2013, p.218).

From Carlowitz’s above mentioned tenet, the essence of the first understanding of sustainability can be perceived as planting trees for future generations. Carlowitz embraced the environmental aspect and involved accepting the finitude of Earth’s resources in order to stop resource depletion and to protect the environment so that the planet’s inhabitability could be retained for many generations to come. After the Brundlandt Report in 1987, the concept of sustainability shifted from a principally ecological view to a perception that also accentuates the social and economic circumstances of development (as described earlier in this work). Although the concept of sustainability is being considered holistically and nowadays encompasses the interconnection between the three pillars ‘environment, economy and society’, this work focuses on only one aspect: environment. This work focuses on environmental sustainability because it is found to be a crucial aspect, which has a significant impact on the whole broad concept of sustainability.

Agenda 21, an action plan towards sustainable development from the United Nations conceived at the Conference on Environment & Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, describes this impact as follows:

‘We are confronted with […] the continuing deterioration of the ecosystems on which we depend for our well-being. However, integration of environment and development concerns and greater attention to them will lead to the fulfillment of basic needs, improved living standards for all, better protected and managed ecosystems and a safer, more prosperous future’ (United Nations 1997).

Hence, environmental sustainability is closely connected to the other two pillars of sustainability. This is why living within the Earth’s resources and reducing the environmental depletion and thus striving for sustainability and environmental sustainability in particular are so crucial. Striving for environmental sustainability also directly impacts on social and economic sustainability. For example, if the amount of waste going to landfills can be reduced, it will have a major influence on social sustainability, because it will improve people’s health and increase people’s wellbeing and quality of life (Menikpura et al. 2013).

2.1.2 Material Recycling and its Contribution to Sustainability

As described earlier in this work, environmental sustainability can be seen as the intent to live within the available resources, succeeding with the challenge of reconciling growth and the accumulation of wealth, safeguarding the planet for future generations. The fact that human beings are struggling with the challenge of reconciling growth and the accumulation of wealth can be seen in the current waste crisis facing mankind, both in general and more specifically developing countries, such as Thailand.

‘In the past we have mass-produced products for mass consumption in our affluent society, and consequently discharged large quantities of waste. We have consumed available resources as if they were unlimited and thereby contaminated the Earth. […] The amount of waste in our society reflects how much resources we consume […]’ (Tanaka 2014, pp.1-2).

An important area where the struggle becomes very obvious is the waste management of individuals and cities. The way in which they deal with waste is very important from the point of view of environmental sustainability. Especially in developing countries, such as Thailand, the population increase and economic growth will ‘exacerbate global warming, increase the consumption of resources, and further degrade the global ecosystems’ and will thereby threaten the sustainability of the planet (Tanaka 2014, p.4). Striving for a sustainable society which is ‘free from the risk of depleting resources, where ecosystems are preserved and without being threatened by global warming’, the need to manage waste within the limits of resources and the environment becomes apparent (Tanaka 2014, p.4). One possible solution for dealing with the waste crisis (primarily in developing countries) is the creation of a ‘recycle-based society’, in order to conserve resources and protect the environment (Tanaka 2014, p.4).

As various studies show, material recycling is a very effective method for reducing humankind’s intervention in nature to only an extent that allows regeneration (Menikpura, Gheewala & Bonnet 2012; Menikpura et al. 2013). The results of Menikpura et al. (2013, p. 250) show that, in the case of Nonthaburi’s waste management system ‘the effects of 24 % waste recycling more than offset the damage occurring from 76 % waste landfilling.’ Material recycling is also found to contribute to carbon reduction. Nonthapong and Polprasert (2013) found that recycling has the highest potential in municipal solid waste management to contribute to carbon reduction. Hence, material recycling plays a relevant role in the alleviation of the increasing global warming problems and water pollution. But material recycling is not only an environmentally friendly strategy; it also has also an important impact on the other two pillars of sustainability, namely social and economic sustainability. Properly designed material recycling activities can contribute significantly to improving living standards by facilitating various employment opportunities and generation of indirect income. Additionally, a material recycling program can reduce the damage to human health as well as increase the community’s well-being and influence the overall quality of life (Menikpura, Gheewala & Bonnet 2012; Menikpura et al. 2013). Hence, it can be concluded that material recycling contributes significantly to improving overall sustainability, taking into consideration all three pillars of the concept. It is crucial to design and implement an effective material recycling program, especially in fast-developing countries, such as Thailand where it is important to reconcile the accumulation of wealth and limited planetary resources.

2.2. Discussion of the Concept of Sustainability

‘The term ‘Sustainability’ covers complex connections within nature and between the environment and the society. Instead of providing answers, it raises questions. The term is harmful. Let crafty sales assistants have it’ (Bojanowski 2014, p. 7).

Not everybody agrees that sustainability is a useful concept which can be a part of the solution for various crises facing humankind (i.e. the waste crisis) for which human beings should strive. Various critical voices can be found regarding the term and the concept of sustainability (Bauchmüller 2014; Bojanowski 2014; Grober 2013).

After the shift from Carlowitz’s understanding of sustainability as the sustainable use of natural resources to the recent concept of sustainability, which includes also the social and economic pillars, the wider concept was difficult to grasp. Sustainability not only shifted to a more holistic concept, but was also used in different contexts in daily language. From magazines selling sustainable diets to sustainably sourced ingredients in a fast food meal to sustainable oil extraction of a big oil company, many products are now advertised with the tag ‘sustainable’. Bauchmüller (2014, p.4) claims that nowadays ‘the term changed into a cipher for everything that is not just empty talk: Who acts ‘sustainable’, is serious, and does not only pay attention to superficial success.’ Due to this overuse and misuse of the term, ‘sustainability’ became a fuzzy and vague concept (Bell & Morse 2008). Marshall & Toffel (2005, p. 673) claim that “robust answers to the question such as ‘what is sustainability?’, ‘what is a sustainable society?’, and ‘what is a sustainable organization?’ have proved elusive.”

Trying to develop a better understanding of the term and the concept, various academics came up with their own definitions and explanations. This inflationary usage of the word sustainability made the confusion even bigger and ended in a loss of meaning and utility of the term (Bauchmüller 2014; Grober 2013; Marshall & Toffel 2005).

‘Almost every article, paper or book on sustainability bemoans the fact that the concept is broad and lacks a broad consensus; this is usually followed by the authors’ own preferred definitions, which in turn add to the lack of consensus’ (Morse & Bell 2008, p.10).

Due to the attempt to incorporate many diverse views and opinions, the concept of sustainability has become very broad (Marshall & Toffel 2005). Besides having lost significance owing to its overuse, the idea of sustainability is criticized for being subjective. Phillis and Andriantiatsaholinianina (2001, p. 438) state that ‘what appears unsustainable for an environmentalist may be sustainable for an economist and the ingredients signifying sustainability may differ for these specialists.’ This subjectivity can be explained with the fact that the concept of sustainability is an ‘organic and evolving construct of our minds’, which is a ‘human vision that by definition is laced with human values (political and ethical)’ (Morse & Bell 2008, p. 200).

Despite the controversy over sustainability, the concept has its right to exist. As Cameron Sinclair (2008, para. 8) puts it: ‘It angers me when sustainability gets used as a buzz word. For 90 percent of the world, sustainability is a matter of survival.’ Having become a buzzword, sustainability distracts ‘much needed attention from the many crucial challenges in ensuring the survival of humans, fundamental human rights and the basic levels of health’ (Marshall & Toffel, 2005, p. 679).

Those are the reasons why it is necessary to strive towards sustainability. The word sustainability might be overused, but the original idea behind it (protecting the environment and planetary resources) is very useful. It is important to give human beings a theme for their actions. Sustainability, despite having become a buzzword, is still essential (Bojanowski 2014), because it offers the possibility to respond to present occurrences (such as wars and violations of human rights). In order to strive towards sustainability, people should live within the Earth’s resources in order to allow it to regenerate, in order to safeguard it for future generations, considering an ancient Indian proverb saying ‘we do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children’ (Welker, n.d., para. 3). The concept of sustainability is complex and fuzzy and its implications for daily life are hard to grasp. In order to tackle current issues (such as hunger, poverty and deforestation) the concept must be used in a more straightforward way.

2.3. The National Concept of Sustainability in Thailand

It is pertinent to mention that the term ‘sustainability’ was developed and is characterized by Western countries. Morse and Fraser (2004, p.14) argue that sustainability ‘is a Western tool that reinforces the status-quo’ and that the sustainability discourse is very much driven by the G8 countries. Whilst this seems to be the case, a number of developing countries have created their own concepts of sustainability.

One of these is Thailand, which has its own national concept of sustainability, the so-called ‘Sufficiency Economy Philosophy’. The Sufficiency Economy Philosophy, which is seen as the guiding philosophy for Thailand’s development, delivers the fundamental basis of sustainability in the Thai context (Siriratpiriya 2014). The Sufficiency Economy Philosophy is based on Buddhist principles such as self-sufficiency, self-reliance, self-satisfaction, personal contentment, the middle path, and guides the behavior of people (Siriratpiriya 2014; Vale 2013). Orawan Siriratpiriya, the author of ‘Municipal Solid Waste Management in Thailand: Challenges and Strategic Solution’, explains the implication for Thai people of the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy as follows:

‘Being sufficient means that, whatever we produce, we must have enough for our own use. We do not have to borrow from other people. We can rely on ourselves, having enough and being satisfied with our situation’ (Siriratpiriya 2014, p. 350).

Comparing the concept of sustainability and the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy, it becomes clear that they share key aspects. Both have a common interest in the environment. While the concept of sustainability stresses the limits of resources, the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy guides people towards a self-sufficient lifestyle and live within what they can provide for themselves. Hence, both the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy and the idea of environmental sustainability can contribute to lessening humankind’s impact on the environment (Vale 2013, p.202).

3. The Methodology ‘Circles of Sustainability’ in the Context of Nonthaburi

As discussed above, the term and the concept of sustainability are called into question, due to overuse (James 2015). As solution, Paul James, a Professor of Globalization and Cultural Diversity in the Institute for Culture and Society at the University of Western Sydney in Australia, suggests that it is time for a new approach to sustainability and calls for the rethinking of basic concepts (James 2015). For him, the solution of ‘rescuing’ the term sustainability is to redefine it and to give it a deeper life. In 2015 he therefore developed the methodology ‘Circles of Sustainability’, which ‘begins that redefinition process as part of a larger project’ (James 2015, xvi Preface).


Excerpt out of 37 pages


Striving towards Sustainability
A Study on Critical Success Factors of Sustainable Material Recycling in Nonthaburi Municipality, Thailand
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Nachhaltigkeit, sustainability, Thailand, wastemanagement, Müll, Umwelt, Nonthaburi, Recycling, materialrecycling
Quote paper
Anonymous, 2015, Striving towards Sustainability, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Striving towards Sustainability

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free