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OPINION: Phuket needs to bite the bag charge soon

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OPINION: Phuket needs to bite the bag charge soon | Thaiger

PHUKET: The delay of an initiative by 24 island retailers to begin charging for plastic bags comes as a disappointment, especially given all the publicity and fanfare that went into organizing the three-day ‘Phuket Green Island’ event intended to kick off the project last weekend.

According to Phuket Energy Office Chief Jirasuk Tummawetch, the initiative has been put on hold indefinitely while the organizers continue to lobby holdouts 7-Eleven, Tesco-Lotus and Carrefour into signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

Organizers hope the scheme will create an ‘all for one and one for all’ mentality among retailers and consumers, raising public awareness about the need to reduce the ever-growing volume of solid waste produced on the island.

Critics of the initiative say that charging just one or two baht for plastic bags won’t be enough to change consumer behavior. Others say it will benefit the retailers at the expense of consumers. Still others point out that plastic bags comprise only a small fraction of the solid waste stream.

All of these objections considered, the Gazette feels the initiative must go forward – for reasons of finally jolting the population into awareness if nothing else. Not sure?

Take a drive from the top of Thailand (Masai) to the bottom (Narathiwat’s border with Malaysia), a distance of 2,290 kilometers. Send us a photo if you can find even a 50-meter stretch of rural road that does not testify to the plague of plastic confronting Thailand’s roughly 66 million people.

Of the earth’s population of 6.7 billion people, almost all consume at least part of an immense array of petroleum-based products. These include not only the obvious things like plastic bags and gasoline, but also the petroleum-based fertilizers we grow our food in and the synthetic textiles we wear. The list is practically endless. Even car tires, which can be made from natural rubber, are now largely made from petroleum-based synthetic rubber.

As a species we are at a real crossroads as we near the end of the fossil-fueled second industrial revolution. The fate of future generations will depend on our ability to radically change the way we produce and use energy, ending our unsustainable dependence on petrochemicals and developing new, more efficient and renewable technologies.

Some hope may lie in increasing global interconnectedness and new technical innovations that might eventually allow us to protect our environment by creating and sharing energy more efficiently, in much the same way we already share files over the internet.

The almost instantaneous global outpouring of aid to Haiti, including significant help from here in Phuket, hints at the type of global civilization we are going to have to build if we want to pass on a sustainable planet to future generations.

We need to start somewhere and now. The plastic bag initiative is a major first step in the right direction.

 

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