This is the first article of the three-part series Bioplastic: green innovation or another plastic problem? an international investigation jointly published by Renewable Matter along with Eu Observer, LRT Lithuanian National Television, and TAZ through the support of Journalismfund Europe. The following parts will be published in Renewable Matter in the coming weeks.


Mandatory masks to protect against Covid have long been gone in Bangkok, but people still cover their faces every day when they go out on the street, either with a piece of cloth or the more standard surgical masks. It is the 11th of December, and the capital of Thailand is already covered in a blanket of smog that is drastically worsening air quality. Between electric tuk-tuks and new cabs running on natural gas, the poor air quality is no longer due as it once was to the exhaust fumes of unlikely means of transportation.

Nowadays, particulate pollution is increasingly caused by an agricultural practice that is still quite common on rice and sugarcane plantations: field burning. The purpose is to quickly remove leaves and excess plant matter to facilitate the harvesting stage.