Activists Say Thailand Needs Much More than a Plastic Bag Ban

Thailand recently instituted a single-use plastic ban, which was a welcome sight to environmental activists considering Thailand is one of the world’s biggest plastic polluters and the sixth biggest contributor to ocean waste.

But although it’s a step in the right direction, green activists argue that Thailand needs to do much, much more to ensure the health of the country’s idyllic environment of lush jungles and beautiful beaches.

For one, Thailand has become one of the world’s foremost importers of electronic and plastic waste, mainly due to China’s ban on importing plastic and electronic waste in 2017.

This led to huge industries across the world offloading their plastic and electronic waste in poorer Southeast Asian countries–like Thailand–who don’t have the necessary waste management infrastructure to make sure that waste is properly recycled or disposed of.

Thailand imported 329,137 tons of plastic waste in 2018 alone, primarily coming from Japan, Hong Kong, and the US.

Recycling factories in Thailand prefer to deal with imported plastic waste as opposed to domestic plastic waste because the imported variety is typically less contaminated, which saves them money when it comes to cleaning and sorting recyclable plastic waste.

In actuality though, oftentimes imported plastic waste is filled with contaminants that make it impossible to be recycled–even if it is relatively less likely to be contaminated versus domestic waste.

The problem might become even worse in the wake of the passage of the business-friendly 2019 Factory Bill.

The law, pushed by the former military government, was passed in order to create more industrial investment in the country and allow even more companies to easily start-up recycling factories.

Under the Factory Bill, waste recycling centers with fewer than 50 employees no longer have to register as factories with the government, ensuring less oversight and regulation of their operations.

On top of that, factories who do have to get licenses from the government to legally operate, now won’t have to renew those licenses every five years and can expand operations without seeking government approval.

Activists point out that this is a big reason why Thailand is one of the world leader’s in waste pollution as well as regularly ranks among the worst countries for air quality.

Read the full story here.

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