Samut Prakan monk makes ‘nano-robes’ from recycled plastic bottles

After three years of trials, Pra Maha Pranom, who is the assistant abbot of Wat Chak Daeng temple in Thailand’s Samut Prakan province, has successfully produced what he calls a “nano-robe”, made from a mixture of recycled plastic, cotton and zinc oxide nanoparticles.

The robe is the result of Pra Maha Pranom’s lifelong pursuit of hygienic perfection. He has always disliked the sight of dirty garbage and wanted to find ways to get rid of it. To learn more about recycling, Phra Maha Pranom went on study tours overseas and spent three years on experimentation.

Recently he created a working formula for mixing recycled plastic with cotton and zinc oxide nanoparticles to make a fine, high quality fabric. Perhaps understandably, the first items of clothing he produced were the iconic saffron coloured monks’ robes.

“One issue about doing this is how to cool down the plastic. We mixed it with cotton fibers and zinc oxide nanoparticles and transformed it into a nanofabric. So, this is not just a recycled robe, it is a ‘nano-robe’, using high quality recycled plastic instead of the low quality type.” he explained.

“This robe is made from 15 plastic bottles, even my robe’s belt is made from plastic too.” said Phra Maha Pranom.

The texture of the nanofabric is not as hard as a plastic. Instead, it feels as soft as a premium quality cotton. One plastic bottle can be used to create a metre of nanofabric.

“It will be a success if we can call on participation from all sectors. If we are still doing this as a small group, it is not yet a success. It’s just the first step. So I encourage everyone to take a further step with us.” he said.

The temple also runs a campaign for people to make merit by offering nanofabric robes to monks. Buddhists can order how much fabric they want to buy for making the merit.

At present, a large quantity of plastic bottles is pouring into the temple for nanofabric production, but it is not enough to meet the demand, from temple goers and merit makers, for the “nano-robes”.

Mr. Nirut Dharmmasombat, the “nano-robe” project manager, said that everyone should cooperate and share their ideas to come up with more options for utilizing the rapidly increasing amount of waste plastic bottles, adding “We all have to think about more options and get it going.”

The temple also made a Thai PBS nanofabric T-shirt, using 15 plastic bottles, for Ms. Chiraporn Khamphaphan, a Thai PBS reporter.

Those who would like to contribute can send their cleaned plastic bottles directly to the temple. They should make sure the bottles are thoroughly washed with the caps and brand labels removed. The temple also offers to collect the bottles from houses in the local area.

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