Plastic industries ask for relief measures after single-use bag ban

On 7 January, companies in the Thai Plastic Industries Association have asked for relief measures to allow recyclable plastic bags and improve the recycling system. They met with government officials after suffering 24,308 million baht damage from the plastic ban.

Trash in Pataya Beach taken in 2016
Source: Department of Disaster Prevention

The government officials included Jatuporn Buruspat, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and representatives from the Pollution Control Department. Representatives of the Federation of Thai Industries also attended.

As 86 companies in the Thai Plastic Industries Association and 47 plastic bag manufacturers have suffered millions of baht in lost business, they recommend 4 relief measures, including allowing the use of recyclable plastic bags thicker than 40 microns and improvements in the recycling system.

Four recommendations by the Thai Plastic Industries Association

1. Allow the use of recyclable plastic bags thicker than 40 microns. The Thai Plastic Industries Association will buy used bags at the rate of 10 baht per kilogram for recycling.

2. Categorize plastic bags by colour: green for biodegradable bags, and yellow for recyclable bags. Yellow bags should be kept separate from organic waste, so that they can be recycled more easily.

3. Create a Thai Industrial Standard Certificate for industries producing yellow and green plastic bags.

4. The Thai Plastic Industries Association will set up drop points where recyclable plastic bags can be bought and sold.

Jatuporn said that he will report the discussion to Varawut Silpa-archa, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, to find a solution which is best for everyone. Since the beginning of this year, the Ministry has worked with 75 private companies to ban single-use plastic bags and also censored images of single-use plastic bags from television.

Too little, too late?

The ban on single-use plastic bag came a bit earlier than expected. The government announced a ban on single-use plastic bags by 2022 and other plastic materials by 2025. But the change is already felt by customers as they have to bring their own bags when shopping in major department stores.

One of the reasons might be because of Thailand's bad reputation with regard to plastic waste. The Pollution Control Department's roadmap indicates that in the last decade, Thailand produced 2 million tons of plastic waste every year and 1.5 million tons of it comes from single-use plastic materials.

To deal with this, Thailand has 2,490 solid waste treatment sites, but only 466 use correct methods.

Thailand has also seen a shocking increase in the import of plastic waste, from 69,487 tons in 2016 to 481,381 tons in 2019 (according to Green Peace), making it the the second largest plastic waste importer in ASEAN after Malaysia.

This results in huge amount of waste released into Thai seas, including into the stomach of Marium, a young dugong whose death saddened the nation in August last year.  Thai seas ranked 10th in the world last year with regard to amount of plastic waste.

Although the government’s measures are seen as too strict by the plastic industry, many have questioned if they are enough. Talking to The Standard, Phichamon Rakrot, the head of Greenpeace's campaign against plastic pollution in Thailand, said there are still 400,000-500,000 shops outside the agreement who offer single-use plastic bags.

Other plastic materials are also still there in the market, including cap seals, bottles, and single-use utensils. For a comprehensive solution, the government has to enforce legal measures and suppliers have to change how they package their products, said Phichamon.