From January 1, 2020, many stores in Thailand will stop handing out single-use plastic carrier bags to customers. Among the shops supporting the campaign are 7-Eleven, Tops and Tesco Lotus. The stores taking part in the campaign are members of the Thai Retailers Association which accounts for more than 70 brands and over 24,000 distribution channels. The idea had been trialled at some locations during 2019 and will now be rolled out nationwide in the New Year under the “Every Day Say No to Plastic Bags” campaign. Shoppers in Thailand are being encouraged to take their own reusable cloth bags with them. Some stores have already switched from plastic bags to paper bags while others may still hand out plastic carrier bags if a customer requests one, but will charge for doing so.
Thailand is a major user of plastic bags with figures from the country’s Pollution Control Department suggesting a staggering 45 billion plastic bags are used annually in Thailand. Local markets and street vendors account for around 40% (18 billion bags). Supermarkets and department stores make up 30% (13.5 billion bags) with another 30% coming from other retail stores. To put the figures into even more perspective, it is estimated that each person who lives in Bangkok uses an average of eight plastic bags per day.
Ban on single use plastics at Thailand’s National Parks
In 2018, Thailand’s National Parks banned the use of single use plastics and styrofoam boxes. Plastic cutlery, plastic straws and foam boxes are not allowed at any National Parks in Thailand. Authorities are reminding people of the rules and also saying rubbish can no longer be disposed of at National Parks and travellers must take their rubbish away with them when they leave.
Plastic waste killing wildlife
There have been a number of high profile incidents recently which brought the issue of plastic waste back to prominence. Last month, a wild deer which died at a national park in northern Thailand was found to have 7kg of rubbish inside its stomach. While in June 2019, rescuers battled to save the life of an orphaned dugong that had become stranded in the Andaman Sea. The rare sea mammal eventually died from an infection that was exacerbated by bits of plastic that she had ingested and which lined her stomach. And in June 2018, a pilot whale died in the Gulf of Thailand after swallowing 80 plastic bags.