World Environment Day (June 5th) has seen the start of a campaign led by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, 20 ministries and the private sector to reduce the use of plastics under the theme: “Beat Plastic Pollution: If you can’t reuse it, refuse it.” “All government agencies under 20 ministries will set examples for others to follow. They will reduce their use of plastic bags and foam containers,” Natural Resources and Environment Minister General Surasak Karnjanarat said.
He said ministries would pursue tangible results so as to encourage all other sectors to halt their unnecessary use of plastic. The government had declared waste management a national agenda item, Surasak added. The move follows Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s April 17th order for the ministries of the Interior, and Natural Resources and Environment to campaign for reduced use of plastic.
Thailand has generated about two million tonnes of plastic waste per year over the past decade. Of that amount, just half a tonne annually has been reused or recycled. “Most of the plastic waste is discarded bags, which will take about a century to decompose,” Surasak said, adding that both the environment and the economy were being damaged as a result. He also noted that Thailand had been ranked the world’s 6th biggest contributor of plastic pollution to oceans among 192 countries.
Thailand’s 23 coastal provinces generate an estimated 11.47 million tonnes of waste daily. Pictures of rafts of plastic garbage in the ocean and its effects on marine life including sea turtles, whales, dolphins and rare sea animals clearly show that the environment problem caused by plastic waste has become more serious, Gen Surasak said. “In 2016 alone, the country had 27 million tonnes of garbage, of them 3.2 million was plastic.
The figures coincide with information of the United Nations Environmental Program which says that as many as 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide each year. One half of the plastic products are for one-time use – including spoons, forks and cups. Each year more than 13 million tonnes of plastic garbage were dumped into the sea.
World Environment Day also saw an announcement by the Department of Medical Services (DMS) that 30 state hospitals are to stop giving plastic bags for take home medicine from October 1st. Those who visit these hospitals are advised to provide their own cloth bags to carry medicines they may be given, DMS directorgeneral Somsak Akkhasilp said. The DMS will also ban cotton swabs, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and balloon sticks, unless these products are made exclusively from more sustainable materials. In an effort to tackle the problem for the next five years, the Plastic Industry Club, the Federation of Thai Industries, the Thailand Business Council for Sustainable Development, and the Thailand Environment Institute Foundation have launched the “Public Private Partnership for Sustainable Plastic and Waste Management”.
Its objective is to halve the amount of ocean waste Thailand produces by 2027. Under the project, some 20 organisations from the public, private, and civil sectors are supporting the implementation of sustainable plastic and waste management via the Circular Economy principle, where resources are kept in use for as long as possible. An autopsy revealed more than 80 plastic bags were in the stomach of a pilot whale which recently died in southern Thailand To do this, it will: promote the recycling business, support entrepreneurs to develop innovation and technology for sustainable plastic management using the “3Rs” (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) principle, educate consumers about waste management and disposal, encourage behavioural changes, pilot a clean city model in Bangkok’s Khlong Toei and in Rayong province, and develop a Thailand Plastic Material Flow Database to measure the project’s success by international standards. Relevant parties signed a memorandum of understanding on the project yesterday.
Supant Mongkolsuthree, Federation of Thai Industries president, said the project was an important step for sustainable plastic and waste management in Thailand, since it was the first time that the public, private and civil sectors had partnered to declare their commitment with support from 177 companies in the industry sector.
“The goal is to achieve tangible results in plastic waste management along the supply chain,” said Supant. Thai PBS/ The Nation