By The Nation
The popular environmental group’s proposal comes on the heels of the deaths of two endangered dugongs, one of whom was apparently killed by swallowing discarded plastic.
Tara Buakamsri, the Thailand country director for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said the deaths of the animals raised a question about the adequacy of the nation’s official roadmap for Plastic Waste Management. That roadmap, which aimed to reduce the amount of plastic garbage by 0.78 million tonnes annually, received the Cabinet's nod in April. Would it be enough to prevent such tragedies in the future? Tara wondered.
The 12-year roadmap (2018-2030) addressed the manufacturing stage of plastic waste management, the consumption stage and the post-consumption stage, as well as the challenges due to a lack of legal enforcement mechanisms such as a law to require manufacturers to identify the type of plastic in containers, another to limit single-use plastic bags and containers and another law to promote garbage separation.
However, said Tara, there was no guarantee that the roadmap would lead to a sustainable solution for plastic waste management. Without a law enforcement mechanism, the roadmap would not in practice reach much beyond promoting public awareness and voluntary measures and so there would be no guarantee of concrete changes for the better.
While the roadmap would phrase out the use of seven types of single-use plastic products, Greenpeace would like to see imposition of an indiscriminately-implemented fee collection nationwide. That would serve to separate the tackling of environment impacts (regarding sea and marine life) due to single-use plastics, from other clear strategies and solutions including implementing specific laws and created an independent fund for rehabilitating Thailand’s seas. Also, it would catalyse public participation and support for further action instead of being limited to public awareness and voluntary measures, said Tara.
Those companies that manufacture or distribute quickly consumed goods such as packaging should implement affirmative policies and clear action plans that transparently show their environmental footprints, and the steps they would take to phase out the use of single-use plastics, Tara said.
The “circular economy” idea, now being advocated by corporates, is cited by the roadmap as being able to reduce the amount of plastic waste by 0.79 million tonnes per year, reduce 1.2 million tonnes of greenhouse gas, and obtain 1,830 million kilowatts in electricity. However, it is based on burning plastic waste for energy and should be reviewed. The roadmap failed to mention the amount of carbon dioxide from burning such plastics, Tara noted, adding that burning 0.97 million tonnes of plastic would in fact emit 22.83 million tonnes of the greenhouse gas.
Citing information from the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, Tara said approximately 300 marine life animals die from eating garbage and fishing tool debris per year in Thailand.
The roadmap, approved by the Cabinet on April 17, would ban the use of three plastic products – plastic cap seals on water bottles, oxo-degradable plastics and plastic microbeads – by the end of this year. Four other products, to be phased out by 2022, are polystyrene foam food boxes, plastic straws, single-use plastic cups and plastic bags of less than 36 microns in thickness. Five years later, in 2027, 100 per cent of plastic waste would be reusable if the plan were fully implemented.