The acting head abbot of Chak Daeng Temple near Bangkok has a unique mission — to convert the polluted city’s waste plastic into robes for his fellow monks! Meet Phra Mahapranom Dhammalangkaro, the acting abbot of Chak Daeng Temple near Bangkok. Building upon a 2,600-year tradition started by Buddha himself, who encouraged ordained monks to fashion their robes out of cloth from scrap heaps and graveyards — he helps process 10 tonnes of plastic waste every month into monks’ robes!
In 2005, when Dhammalangkaro moved to Bangkok to teach Buddhism and manage Chak Daeng’s temple grounds, he found it full of garbage. Back then, plastic waste there was either burnt or thrown in River Chao Phraya. Sadly, this resulted in severe pollution in the river, contributing to the loss of marine life, poisoning of aquifers and the uncontrolled growth of algae. Burning plastic also resulted in severe air pollution. About eleven years ago, he visited Tzu Chi Foundation in Taiwan to study plastic recycling and saw how they were able to make shirts, trousers, bags and more from recycled plastic. Thus, the idea of making monastic robes from recycled plastic was born.
Today, he and other monks in the monastery sift through all the plastic waste they receive from neighbouring areas. This plastic is compressed into bales and shipped to the factory where it is converted into fibre and eventually woven into monastic robes.
Monks attest that the fabric is easy to wash, doesn’t smell or crease and is light on skin. Their novel recycling enterprise has employed over 30 local villagers, including some that are differently abled. Most of all, it is keeping some plastic from being thrown in the Chao Phraya river, one of the most polluted water sources in Thailand. For the monks of course, their clean up and recycling project has a spiritual aspect: “We need to clean material waste out, as well as cleaning the waste in the brain, and then, we will find true happiness,” the abbot says.
Author: The India Story Agency for Sacred Groves
Images Credit: Luke Duggleby