Thailand is kicking off the new year with a ban on single-use plastic bags at major stores in a move that is pivotal to the continued path to reducing the use of single-use plastics and keeping them out of the oceans.
The government initiated campaign has a target goal of 2021 for a complete ban to help reduce waste and debris into the oceans. The announcement came from the Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varavuth Silpa-archa, who voices his strong support for the ban.
In total 75 companies including shopping malls, department and convenience stores will stop utilizing plastic bags. The ban is a huge step forward for a nation that has struggled with containing and preventing single-use plastics from entering the ocean.
Coinciding with the ban, the Pollution Control Department has introduced a 20 year action plan on plastic waste management which includes working towards reducing plastic items including cap seals, Oxo-degredable plastic, microbeads, single-use plastic bags, styrofoam, food containers, plastic cups and straws.
According to Minister Varavuth the public response to the single-use plastic bag ban was “quite enthusiastic” and the private sector have been“very cooperative”.
The nation has already made steps major steps as the country has reduced the use of plastic bags by 2 billion or about 12.5 million pounds in the first phase of the campaign.
“Thailand was ranked sixth among the world’s top countries that dumps waste into the sea,” Minister Varawut told reporters on Wednesday after handing out reusable bags to the public.
“During the past five months, we were down to 10th … thanks to the cooperation of the Thai people.”
Minister Varawut is also looking to consult with the Education Ministry to educate students from the youngest classes, up, about environmental concerns.
“This year we are going to push for a law against single-use plastics. At the moment, 127 of 192 countries worldwide have enacted single-use plastics legislation. Hopefully, our single-use plastics law will pass next year. Every country started by eliminating the use of single-use plastic bags, because they can be replaced by fabric or paper. Meanwhile, clear plastic bags for food are quite difficult to eliminate, since there is no suitable alternative”
Varawut added that the most challenging aspect would be the last 40% of plastic bag used at fresh markets and in rural areas. “It’s not going to be easy to change the way of thinking and behavior of those people,” he said.