The plastic piles up in Thailand
Thailand began the year with a ban on single-use plastic bags that they hoped would cut back the waste that puts the country among the world’s top ve choking the oceans with plastic.
Then the coronavirus pandemic forced school closures and authorities told people to stay home, and far from falling, Bangkok’s plastic waste has soared 62% in volume, as more people opt for food and goods to be delivered to homes.
Even if the pandemic eases, environmentalists fear Thailand is simply a pointer for the situation elsewhere in Southeast Asia, home to four of the world’s top five plastic polluters of the ocean. The biggest is China.
As much as 3,432 tonnes of plastic was thrown away in the Thai capital each day in April, up from last year’s average of 2,115 tonnes, city data shows. Contaminated items, from takeaway bags to containers, bottles and cups, made up more than 80%.
Thailand’s experience serves as a warning for the region, said Wijarn Simachaya, president of the Thailand Environment Institute, a think tank.
“The large increase is very concerning,” Wijarn said. “What progress we’ve made on the campaign against single-use plastic has gone back to square one.”
Despite a smaller pile of general waste as the lockdown halted businesses, Thailand, which usually generates about 2 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, is likely to see a surge of 30% nationwide this year, Wijarn added.
“There’s a lot of plastics in one order, whether hot food bags, sauce bags, or plastic utensils that also come individually wrapped in plastic.”
Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa acknowledged a setback in the fight on plastic waste, but said he remained hopeful Thailand could still regain lost ground. – Reuters