The group, ‘Plastic Free Phuket’, is already 55 members strong from the student body alone, not including UWC staff and a growing number of people joining in at cleanups at beaches along the west coast.
The group already has support for its initiative from One Phuket, Sustainable Maikhao Foundation and Prince of Songkla University (PSU), as well as PSU lecturer Dr Chantinee Boonchai, a PhD graduate in Environmental and Development Systems at University of Queensland, Australia.
“Particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Phuket has experienced an increase in plastic use and demand for waste management. Thriving off of tourism, Phuket has suffered economically throughout the pandemic, leading to a sharp decline in sustainable practices,” the group explains in its mission statement.
“Waste disposal difficulties caused by the overconsumption of single-use plastics in Phuket has led Phuket’s incinerators to surpass capacity, with landfills also filling rapidly. This is partly due to a lack of education regarding the harms of single-use plastics on the environment, with thousands of plastic bags being attained and thrown away everyday across Thailand.
“A ban on single-use plastic bags in Phuket could set a standard of sustainability, not only for the inhabitants of the province, but for provinces across Thailand and neighboring Southeast Asian countries,” it adds.
BYE BYE PLASTIC BAGS
The plan is to emulate the student-led Bye Bye Plastic Bags initiative that successfully saw a ban on single-use plastic bags introduced in Bali in 2019, making international headlines.
If approved the project will see a six-month transition period combined with a widespread public-awareness campaign for businesses to use alternative items or stop using bags altogether.
After six months the ban will go into effect and businesses will be expected to be no longer providing plastic bags. When businesses renew their business licenses, they will also be checked to see if they are providing plastic bags. If they are, they cannot renew their license until suspending the use of plastic bags.
“We encourage the replication of this system in Phuket to move towards becoming more environmentally aware. Phuket’s reliance on tourism and overuse of plastic bags is similar to that in Bali before their own ban was enacted, providing support for Phuket’s ability to make the same change. Despite the ongoing pandemic, Bali has seen increased international interest in the sustainable tourism it aims to promote,” the group notes.
While national plastic bag regulations exist and apply to large chain stores in Phuket, such as Makro and Tesco, it is clear that this action alone is not sufficient, especially with the presence of many successful small businesses on the island, who continue to use single-use plastic bags.
A plastic bag ban will reduce the use of single-use plastic bags in all businesses.
To gauge interest and support for a ban on plastic bags on behalf of small business owners, presumably one of the groups whom this ban would affect most, the Plastic Free Phuket team conducted a series of interviews with vendors at the Boat Avenue Friday Night Market.
Of those surveyed, 82% of stalls from a sample interviewed said they would happily switch to sustainable packaging, with the most common object being concern over profit changes or cost competitiveness if not all vendors adopted sustainable options.
“This statistic indicates strong support for a ban on plastic bags from small business owners in Phuket,” the group notes
As more support arrives, the group plans to present its proposal to the Phuket Governor.
The beach cleanups conducted weekly each Sunday by the group are instrumental in not only cleaning trash and other debris from Phuket beaches, but also raising awareness, explained 17-year-old UWC student Iyla Davis.
All people are welcome to join the cleanups. However, the group is currently taking a break from its Sunday beach cleanups for school holidays.
The cleanups will resume at Bang Tao Beach on Oct 30 from 10:30am to midday, at Nai Bang Beach on Nov 6 from 4:30pm to 6pm, at Mai Khao Beach on Nov 13 (10:30am to midday), back to Nai Yang Beach on Nov 20 (4:40pm to 6pm) and back to Mai Khao Beach on Nov 27 (10:30am to midday).
For more information about Plastic Free Phuket, contact them at:
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/plasticfreephuket
Instagram - @plasticfreephuket_
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone/ Whatsapp - Iyla Davis (+66931744606)