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Phuket trash crisis: Tesco goes it alone



PHUKET: Tesco Lotus yesterday launched its own answer to Phuket’s long-delayed plastic bag charging scheme.

The UK-based retail chain’s “Green Bag Green Point” initiative rewards customers who reuse old shopping bags with points which can be exchanged for cash coupons.

Customers also receive “green points” when they buy certain environmentally friendly products.

The project was launched in Bangkok on March 19 and kicked off in Phuket at the Tesco Lotus superstore on the Bypass Rd yesterday.

Saofang Ekaluckrujee, senior corporate affairs manager at Lotus, said the company felt it had a responsibility to do its part in reducing waste, though every organization had different policies on how to achieve this.

Lotus believes incentives are most effective, she said.

Under the pre-existing Tesco Lotus Club Card scheme, customers receive one point for every two baht they spend in the company’s stores. One thousand points can be exchanged for a 10-baht cash coupon.

Under the Green Bag Green Point project, customers will be rewarded with one point every time they use their own bag, rather than a new one.

The scheme will essentially reward customers with one-hundredth of a baht for every bag they reuse.

The company is not yet selling cloth bags at its Phuket stores, meaning customers will have to supply their own or reuse plastic bags.

Customers will also receive 25 points when they buy any of 118 environmentally friendly products, which include light bulbs, garbage bags, mosquito repellent, paper, correction fluid and toilet cleaner.

A Tesco spokesman said the chain had gone forward with an incentive scheme rather than plastic bag charging because this was the policy of its UK-based parent company.

In the UK, green points have been long established for many years – and they work. The vast majority of people [in the UK stores] bring their own bags,” he said.

Phuket Vice Governor Smith Palawatwichai, who chaired the project opening ceremony, said Phuket was producing around 600 tonnes of trash every day but had the capacity to incinerate just 260 tonnes.

Thank you to Tesco Lotus for joining the province in reducing the use of plastic bags by launching the project,” he said.

An island-wide plastic bag charging scheme, ‘Phuket No Shopping Bag’, remains on hold because retailers are refusing to go ahead until Tesco Lotus, Carrefour and 7-Eleven agree to take part.

The chief of the Phuket Energy Office, Jirasuk Tummawetch, said he still hoped Tesco would sign the MoU promising to charge for plastic bags, despite the launch of its own project.

Phuket Governor Wichai Phraisa-ngop is writing to the company’s head offices asking for it to participate, Mr Jirasuk said.

Nick Anthony, managing director of Indigo Real Estate and one of the driving forces behind ‘Phuket No Shopping Bag’, said he remained positive that Tesco and the other hold-outs could be brought on board “within the next few weeks”.

Approaches had been made to Tesco “at multiple levels” with regard to the scheme, he said.

Mr Anthony also suggested individuals who supported the scheme should approach Tesco store managers and make their support for bag charging known.

Meanwhile, it is understood that Carrefour is only willing to join the scheme if Tesco Lotus does.

7-Eleven also refuses to sign the MoU, saying that it already issues biodegradable plastic bags.

— S Nongkaew & D Waites


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