By Madelyn Bayles and Genevieve Perry
Koh Samet is an island destination and one of the stops along the way for the Mayterm Thailand experience. In the past, Koh Samet has experienced severe environmental problems. In 2013, some of Koh Samet’s beaches were damaged by an oil spill (Stevens, 2013). 50,000 liters (approximately 13,200 gallons) of oil were spilled (Stevens). Some of the water surrounding the island turned a “rust red color” (Stevens). Around 600 people (among them soldiers, volunteers, and PTT Global Chemical employees) assembled to help clean up the island (Stevens).
In 2018, Koh Samet began an environmental campaign to decrease the use of plastic on the island by requesting that visitors avoid using plastic bags and that they bring their own containers for food (“Koh Samet,” 2018). Such a campaign is sorely needed, as Koh Samet experiences around 1,500 visitors every day, each of which use about eight plastic bags (making for an average of 12,000 plastic bags per day) (“Koh Samet”). However, there are no disincentives for using plastic, making the efficacy of this campaign questionable (“Koh Samet”). The islands surrounding Koh Samet threaten to fine visitors for leaving trash or harming nature, but there was little enforcement of the fines.
We noticed some of these efforts while on the island. For example, upon boarding the speedboat to Koh Samet, Genevieve noticed this sign. It caught her attention, as she’d never seen environmental protections like this implemented in the United States. When we got to the island, the resort we were staying at offered up cloth bags for its guests to use — free of charge — on the island. You would have to pay for one if you forgot to return it, however. Stores like the 7-Eleven and the local food establishments simply didn’t offer plastic or styrofoam options.
While this effort likely did curb the pollution, it didn’t stop it. There were bottle caps in the sand, and plastic bags in the waves. On some of the smaller islands that you could take a speedboat to, there were piles of plastic water bottles that tourists had left behind. In Thailand you generally are discouraged from drinking tap water, so banning water bottles would not be as easy to implement as banning plastic bags would. Ideally, tourists would be responsible for their trash, but again, this often isn’t the case.
Many of the efforts to curb pollution seemed to be rather half-hearted to us. In a fast food restaurant near the island, for example, we noticed a small sign that said “Say no to plastic.” However, the restaurant didn’t really seem to make any effort beyond that. The food still came in plastic packaging, and we didn’t see any recycling bins.
Koh Samet says “say no” to plastic bags from Thursday … (2018, October 31). Retrieved June 8,
Stevens, A. (2013, August 01). Thailand oil spill: Tourists abandon blackened Koh Samet beach.
Retrieved June 8, 2019, from https://www.cnn.com/2013/07/31/world/asia/thailand-beach-oil-spill/index.html