Eco-friendly Buddhist monks wear robes made from recycled plastic bottles in Thailand

Buddhist monks in Thailand are recycling plastic bottles by turning them into sacred orange robes.

Abbot Maha Pranom Dhammalangkaro had the idea after being swamped with trash at the temple in Samut Prakan.

Monks first tried burning the plastic bottles to make fuel but found it inefficient. They then tried making t-shirts which was a ''great success''.

The Wat Chak Daeng temple now clothes all their monks with orange robes made from old plastic bottles collected from the nearby river as well as bottles donated by green-minded locals.

Maha Pranom said other religious buildings across Thailand have also started making orders for the recycled orange robes.

Speaking yesterday (August 12), he said: ''We had the idea of turning plastic into robe just from our daily life at the temple. We turned dry leaves into organic fertilizer or fuel and tried to turn plastic into fuel but it was not efficient.

''Then we saw one member of staff wearing a recycled t-shirt, so we thought it might be possible to transform plastic into a monk's robes.

''So I said to the experts 'why don't we try making the bottles into a robe?' Shirts are easier to make because they are thinner, but monks' robes would take more work.''

Maha Pranom said that his team of monks and volunteers collect bottles from the nearby river. They also receive around 110lbs to 220lbs of bottles from residents to recycle.

The process involves collecting the bottles and separating the caps and labels. They are then washed and crushed into a block before taken to a different factory where they are sliced into small grains and mixed with other components before being stretched into thread.

The thread is dyed and delivered back to the temple where it is woven into sheets to make the orange robes.

Maha Pranom said that he tested the recycled robe for a year to find the perfect formula.

He said it was made from around one 34 percent plastic, 43 percent silk, and another 23 percent polyester.

Around 15 bottles are needed to make one robe.

Maha Pranom added: ''I tried wearing them for one year to see if they were too thick, too hard to dry or too hard to wash, or any other problems. But it was comfortable to wear, it was not smelly or damp. It was easy to wash and dries quickly.

Maha Pranom encouraged the other parties such as the government to give serious effort to handle the plastic pollution in Thailand.

He added: ''I don't think our campaign is successful yet, this is just the beginning. I think it will be a success when it raises awareness of recycling among Thai people. If they can collect plastic waste and know how to use it, that's what I call success. If people don't neglect the benefit of recycling and start to increase the use of it, if that happens, then the campaign is the success.''