Today is Thai Environment Day. Today convenience stores, trade stores and shopping malls will refrain from providing single-use plastic bags to shoppers and at the same time will campaign for donation of cloth bags to be distributed to hospitals for containing medicines.
Whether any of this actually happens, we will see.
The proposed plastic bag-free day is the outcome of a memorandum of understanding signed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and operators of convenience stores, trade stores and shopping malls to reduce the use of single-use plastic bags.
The cynical campaign is another chance for the Thai government to indicate its ‘commitment’ to the Thai environment and the reduction of single-use plastic bags whilst doing next to nothing to actually solve the problem.
Encouraging Thais to reduce their use of single-use plastic bags for one day out of 365 should be seen as national day of shame.
Thailand is one of the region’s main contributors to plastic waste floating around the seas with daily photos of dead sea-life making their way onto social media. Dead sea animals are routinely retrieved and, upon examination, are found to have ingested plastic bags or suffocated with plastic lodged in their mouths or around their necks.
The problem of single-use plastic bags, the removal of these items out of the retail chain and the proper disposal of plastics remains unmanaged and unplanned in Thailand.
Back in October the Central Pattana Group in Phuket, the operators of Central Festival and Central Floresta, who also own the TOPS supermarket chain and Family Mart convenience stores, loudly lauded their ‘no plastic bag’ campaign which meant they would ask customers if they really needed a plastic bag and offered a 200 baht cloth replacement… ONE DAY A MONTH.
Another cynical PR stunt without substance or any real commitment to reduce the amount of single-use plastic bags marching out the doors of their retail stores and shopping centres.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is saying that after the “plastic bag-free day” today, all the stores and malls will work out their own measures to reduce the use of the plastic bags, such as designating a day or a few days of a week that no plastic bags will be provided to shoppers.
In other words next-to-nothing. No commitments, no targets, just vague words without any concrete action from the Thai Government.
According to unofficial estimates, each Thai generates 1.4 kilograms of garbage a day or 74,000 tonnes of garbage a day for the entire population which means that a total of 2,960 10-wheel trucks with the capacity of hauling 25 tonnes of garbage each will be needed to carry the trash to dump sites or land fills for disposal.
There is enough evidence from multiple studies and surveys (or just walk along any Thai beach) to show that single-use plastics are a major environmental threat and need urgent political attention and action instead or meaningless words and PR stunts.
And watch today as thousands and thousands of Thais will, like every other day, stop on the roadside to purchase their delicious Thai iced coffee in a plastic cup, with a plastic cup-cover, in a plastic bag with a plastic straw.
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