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Phuket Opinion: Make them pay for plastic

PHUKET: News this past week that the Finance Ministry is seriously considering introducing a levy on plastic bags is long overdue. The fact that Thailand is “drowning in plastic” is obvious, and even the government can no longer ignore it. Plastic bag waste accounted for 13% of marine litter in 2015, well above food packaging waste at 8% and straws at 10%.

opinionpollutionenvironmentmarinenatural-resourcestourismeconomics
By The Phuket News

Sunday 20 May 2018, 09:00AM


The volume of plastic in our garbage and the poor management of how we dispose it all leads to the oceans where we are literally killing the fish that feed us. Photo: Pineapple Eyes Line Group

The volume of plastic in our garbage and the poor management of how we dispose it all leads to the oceans where we are literally killing the fish that feed us. Photo: Pineapple Eyes Line Group

In 2016, in a report to the UN, the Thai government admitted that the total amount of garbage finding its way into the sea was estimated at 2.83 million tons, of which it said 12% was plastic. Those figures can be taken with a pinch of salt, but last year Thailand recognised that the nation generated 27.4mn tons of waste, of which 2mn tons was plastic.

The effect is damming – as are the giant garbage patches accumulating in the world’s ocean’s. National Geographic reported four years ago that so much plastic was flowing into the oceans that 90% of seabirds were eating plastic and that virtually every seabird will be eating it by 2050. If seabirds are not your concern, what do you think fish are eating?

Staggering as the numbers are, reporting them – and they have been reported everywhere, and often – has done little to achieve the great anti-plastic revolution everyone is waiting for. The truth of the matter is that a change in the mentality that widespread consumption of single-use plastics is acceptable must go – and that is where the great challenge lies, people do not want to change. For now, plastic bags are just too convenient.

If even the Thai government recognises that most marine plastic debris is land-based, caused by inefficient waste management and poor handling of plastic wastes, there are no prizes for guessing where the bulk of the plastic in the oceans is coming from: look for your nearest densely populated area.

According to data from the Environmental Quality Promotion Department, the average Bangkokian uses a mind-boggling 8.7 bags a day. Major retailers have agreed to join in the campaign to encourage customers to bring their own re-usable bags but so far the effect has been negligible.

We need financial incentives for major industries to reduce plastic use. Last year the Thai government told the UN that it has established a 20-year strategy to tackle the problem, including developing financial incentives reducing plastic use and encouraging eco-friendly substitutes for plastics. So bring it on!

 

 

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BenPendejo | 20 May 2018 - 19:16:04

You can't impose fines, because there is never anyone available to enforce anything. You have to sting them right at the point of purchase, and it must be 5 baht per bag. This is working all over the world, from Africa to America.  It is time Thailand get on board with global environmental awareness. The only thing people here understand is financial consequences...nothing else matters.

Foot | 20 May 2018 - 18:12:34

In developed countries, there is usually a charge of some kind for plastic.  The money generated is then used to clean things up and process the trash.
What would Thailand do with the money generated?

CaptainJack | 20 May 2018 - 12:40:10

Simply having staff ask "would you like a bag?" would have a huge effect, raising awareness and making people think. But instead we are forced to bag individual items, to double bag "heavy" items and to accept fist fulls of plastic spoons and straws.

Perversley we have to fight to NOT be given plastic.

Kurt | 20 May 2018 - 12:15:02

What a unhealthy risk situation on that photo. Unfortunately not unique. See it daily all over Phuket.
There is no vision, management on Phuket when it comes to rubbish + waste.
Not thank full enough for the highest provincial Officials to order and executive better handling?
Why not rubbish bins of at least 4 different colors? For Plastic, glass, paper and others? Recycle SMART.

Concernd | 20 May 2018 - 09:59:14

Fully agree. Charge for plastic bags 2- 5 Baht, put a deposit 2-5 Bath on plastic and glass bottles (for drinks etc), if they return it to the shops they get their money back, so done in many counties. If they trash not the proper way all over the place around streets and fields and not listen fine them.

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