In the new year, major retailers in Thailand implemented a ban on single-use plastic bags, the first step in a goal to eliminate them across the nation by 2021. A shopper on Bangkok street, pre-ban. In 2012, Thailand banned single-use plastic bags at all major retailers. The government claims that plastic-bag use came down by some 5765 tonnes in 2019 thanks to new public awareness, and Reuters reported on 1 January that the campaign to get shoppers to bring their reusable bags increased in popularity last year after various animals “were found dead with plastics in their digestive systems.”
Restaurants and food vendors on Trok Itsaranuphap (soi 16) in Bangkok’s Chinatown. According to Greenpeace, Thailand produces around 2 million tonnes of plastic garbage annually, most of which consists of approximately 75 billion plastic bags. According to Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-Archa, “Thailand was sixth among the world’s top nations that dump rubbish into the sea.” Over the previous five months, with the help of the Thai people, we dropped from second to tenth place.
Recent polling indicates that 58% of respondents strongly favor the ban, with an additional 23% expressing some support; nonetheless, consumers are still getting used to the new norm and doing so in some very innovative ways. A popular Facebook album in the first week of the new year documented the unusual ways people transport their purchases.
Of course, there are reusable bags, suitcases, wheelbarrows, woven baskets, buckets, and even inverted parking cones, all of which have food fastened to their respective clothing hangers on a pole. “Bangkok-based artist Pimvipar Upatampaganon told NBC News that “people always find a way to be funny and have fun.” More than 300 marine creatures on the verge of extinction in Thailand perish each year as a direct result of getting caught in fishing gear or eating trash, according to Greenpeace.
The group observed in August that although dolphins and whales suffer a 60% mortality rate from ingesting plastic, sea turtles suffer a 70% mortality rate from having plastic tied around their necks and bodies. According to an article published in the Bangkok Post, one of Thailand’s goals is to outlaw seven types of ocean litter—including bottle cap seals and single-use bags, cups, and straws—by 2025. Nareerat Wiriyapong predicted that the measure would save 225,000 tonnes, or 45 billion plastic bags per year, from being burned or dumped in landfills. Thailand’s capital city of, Bangkok’s Banglamphu Market, is home to its famed street cuisine.
In an interview with Reuters, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut said that the initiative’s greatest task would be eliminating 40 percent of plastic bags used in markets and rural regions. He said that changing such people’s “style of thinking and behavior” won’t be simple. However, at this point, their only option is to attempt. A marine scientist who collaborated with the government on the idea, Dr. Thon Thamrongnawasawat, recently told the Singapore Times: “Only by imposing the ban can we hope to solve the problem.