Big Retailers Pledge to Drop Plastic Bags by 2020

A file photo of a landfill in Nakhon Ratchasima.
A file photo of a landfill in Nakhon Ratchasima.

BANGKOK — Beginning next year, almost all major retailers in the country will stop giving out plastic bags in a first step towards the government’s plan to eradicate single-use plastic bags by 2021.

Environment minister Varawut Silpa-archa said on Friday that several partners have signed onto a plastic reduction scheme where they have vowed to cease offering plastic bags with purchases starting Jan. 1, 2020.

Among the list of participating retailers were those who had already pledged to reduce plastic use like The Mall Group, Central Group, and Tesco Lotus, as well as other retailers like 7-Eleven, Big C Supercenter, Makro, Foodland Supermarket, Maxvalu, FamilyMart, and Index Living Mall.

Varawut spoke after a meeting with 43 retail conglomerates, plastic manufacturers, and trade associations.

“It’s time for Thai people to start thinking about the environment,” Varawut said. “We have to lift ourselves up from being ranked sixth in the world for generating the most sea waste to the better position of a two-digit rank.”

Plastic manufacturers such as SCG Plastics, PTT Global Chemical, and Dow Thailand also signed the agreement, but Varawut did not specify the role they will play in the scheme.

Varawut said the scheme will only cover single-use plastic bags, while bags for hot food items will continue to be given.

The ministry is also pushing to legislate on a six-year plan to ban seven other types of plastic by 2021: cap seals, oxo-degradable plastics, microbeads, plastic bags less than 36 micrometres thick, styrofoam, plastic cups, and plastic straws.

The ban is part of the government’s 12-year strategy on plastic waste management, which began in 2018. The plan sets a goal of having all plastic waste in Thailand recycled by 2030.

“The plan will help to reduce around 780,000 tons of plastic waste and save up to 3.9 billion baht in waste management costs per year,” Varawut said.

The Department of Pollution Control has stated it hopes the pilot program will reduce plastic bag usage by around 13.5 billion plastic bags – or about 30 percent of annual plastic bag usage.

The rest, or around 30 billion plastic bags, come from traditional retailers like markets and “mom and pop” stores. The ministry plans to launch public hearings to find the most appropriate solution for pushing such retailers to cease offering single-use plastic bags by 2021.

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