Declaring war on plastic waste
In 1950, the world had a population of 2.5 billion. They produced roughly 1.5 million tonnes of plastic each year, according to Surfers Against Sewage, one of the United Kingdom’s most active environmental charities.
Fast forward to 2016, the global population had risen to over seven billion. They produced over 320 million tonnes of plastic yearly.
By 2034 - just 15 years from now - this number is expected to have doubled.
If no immediate action is taken, the world’s population will be drowned in plastic waste for sure.
Of all the marine debris studied, as much as 90% is plastics. And every day an estimated eight million more pieces of plastic pollution end up in the oceans – alarming figures and there are many more.
The issue regarding plastic waste has been taken way too lightly. An average Bangkokian reportedly requires eight single use plastic bags to get through their day. That translates to a total of around 80 million bags a day in the capital alone. So many of us continue to treat plastic as a necessity of life.
At least they did until the recent death of the eight-month-old orphaned dugong, Mariam, who so sadly fell prey to severe sepsis due to the accumulation of eight plastic bags in her colon. The death was not only painful for Mariam but a wake-up call for all we witnesses to it.
Worse, Mariam is only one among a vast number of marine lives sacrificed to plastic waste in the ocean. Recent studies reveal marine plastic pollution in 100% of turtles, 59% of whales, 36% of seals, and 40% of seabirds examined. It is estimated that around 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and one million sea birds will be killed by marine plastic pollution this year alone. And the problem is getting worse.
Realising the gravity of the plastic pollution conundrum, not just in Thailand but around the globe, the Bangkok Post’s CSR Focus this year chooses to underline projects, collaborations and initiatives by stakeholders that have declared war against single-use plastic items and all plastic waste.
However, excessive use of plastic cannot be handled by private parties alone. The government must play a pivotal role in addressing the issues too.
In this supplement, you will read about the Public Private Partnership for Plastic and Waste Management, or Thailand PPP Plastic, one of the more significant driving forces against plastic pollution. As its name suggests, it is a collaborative between state agencies and businesses to counter Thailand’s plastic debris. With 33 organisations now as PPP members, the project aims to reduce plastic marine debris by at least 50% and to achieve full recycling of plastic waste in Thailand by 2027.
To hear the voices of those immersed in plastics in real life, we interviewed people from various fields and occupations to find out how much plastic they actually use each day and what they are doing to cut down. They have different perspectives on plastics but at least everyone agrees that serious action needs to be taken to keep the plastic crisis at bay.
This supplement also highlights interesting initiatives being undertaken by various private sector entities who are answering the call to raise awareness of the needs to recycle and eliminate as much plastic waste as possible. With almost one million plastic beverage bottles sold every minute around the world, according to National Geographic data, Wat Chak Daeng in Samut Prakan province came up with a wise idea to transform some of those PET bottles into eco-friendly yarn that in turn is used to create monks’ robes.
Retail and hospitality industries - major sources of plastic consumption - are also making serious efforts with well thought-out plastic waste-reducing initiatives.
Thailand generates approximately 7,000 tonnes of Styrofoam and plastic waste each day, according to Department of Pollution Control data. Of this, around 80%, or 5,300 tonnes, is plastic waste that would take 450 years to decompose.
Now’s the time to rethink our plastic footprint. To prevent the Thai population and everyone from drowning in plastics, it’s never too late to start now.
Deputy editor of the Life section
Arusa Pisuthipan is the deputy editor of the Life section of the Bangkok Post.