In Thailand, each person on average uses and discards a plastic bag three thousand times per year — making Thailand, despite its relatively small population and size, the sixth worst source of plastic trash in the world’s oceans.
Ralyn Satidtanasarn — also known as Lilly, a 12-year-old girl in Thailand — is not standing for it.
Horrified by a visit to a beach that was blanketed in plastic trash, and inspired by Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, Lilly spends her time “at war,” she says — conducting sit-ins and participating in clean-ups in an attempt to change her country’s dire situation.
While she has been successful persuading some store chains to stop giving out plastic bags, Lilly has a much more formidable opponent: Thailand’s powerful petrochemical industry, which according to Agence France-Presse accounts for five percent of the national GDP and tens of thousands of jobs.
Public awareness of plastic trash in the ocean surged over the summer after a crew of scientists rescued a baby dugong — similar to the manatees found along the Florida coast — that had washed up on a Thai beach.
Images of the scientists’ rescue efforts became a social-media sensation, but the dugong, nicknamed “Mariam,” died of an infection in her stomach and intestines after swallowing ocean-borne plastic pollution.
Sources: Agence-France Presse (France), Deutsche Welle (Germany)