State chews over plastic bag levy
Seeking to address ecological problems
The government is considering a levy on shopping bags to reduce plastic consumption and pollution, says a source at the Finance Ministry.
Other alternatives include replacing regular plastic bags with biodegradable ones and making thinner plastic carrier bags, the source said.
The options are part of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) expected to be signed between the government and the private sector, with the Thai Retailers Association (TRA) discussing the issue next week before holding a meeting with the Finance Ministry to reach a conclusion on the matter.
The source said options designed to encourage consumers to reduce plastic bag usage are expected to come into force next year.
These options are being jointly initiated by the interior, natural resources and environment ministries to curb plastic waste and address ecological problems in the country.
Under the MoU, a committee on steering, evaluating and monitoring the issue will be set up, the source said, adding that plastic bag sales could be banned in the long run.
In 2017, Thailand had 27.4 million tonnes of waste, of which 2 million tonnes was plastic. Moreover, plastic bag waste accounted for 13% of marine litter in 2015, well above food packaging waste at 8% and straws at 10%.
According to the Environmental Quality Promotion Department's data, plastic bag usage per person averages 8.7 bags a day in Bangkok.
The government in 2015 joined hands with the private sector to launch a nationwide campaign to reduce plastic bag usage, with retailers claiming that consumption has declined by 300 million plastic bags.
Fifteen major shopping malls and supermarkets throughout the country have agreed to join in the campaign to encourage customers to bring their own cloth bags or haversacks.
The source said the Fiscal Policy Office will not consider imposing a tax to reduce plastic bag usage, as the tax collection costs would likely exceed tax revenue, and the burden should not be passed on to consumers, as plastic bag production costs are quite low.
Chatchai Tuangrattanapan, director of the TRA, said the association is scheduled to call a meeting of its members on May 18 to discuss the government's new policy.
Each retail chain has launched its own activities to encourage shoppers to use cloth bags and replace plastic ones, but the response from customers has been minimal. Similar measures to curb plastic usage have been successful in other countries, Mr Chatchai said, adding that legal measures here would boost enforcement.