Get tough on plastics
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Get tough on plastics

A loggerhead sea turtle is seen entangled in a fishing net in the waters near Playa San Lazaro, Baja California Sur, Mexico. (Photo: Reuters)
A loggerhead sea turtle is seen entangled in a fishing net in the waters near Playa San Lazaro, Baja California Sur, Mexico. (Photo: Reuters)

As the nation marked World Turtle Day on Tuesday, the caretaker administration made the decision to send Thai delegates to take part in the drafting of an international treaty to regulate the plastic industry, which will take place in Paris later this month.

The meeting is part of the ongoing effort to tackle the growing problem posed by marine debris. The attendance suggests that in the near future, Thailand is likely to ratify the international treaty to help tackle this debris.

At the meeting which will be organised by the United Nations Environment Programme from May 28 to June 2, six Thais, led by executives and experts from the Pollution Control Department and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, will give their opinion on four areas of concern about the international treaty on marine debris.

These areas of concern are the scope of enforcement, the list of plastic and chemical additives which need to be phased out, what to do with the hazardous waste generated by the plastic industry, and alternatives to the current approach.

When the treaty becomes legally binding, it will be a game changer as it will force the plastic industry to adapt its supply chain to make it greener and friendlier to the environment and human health.

Plastic waste is a serious cause for concern in Thailand. According to the PCD, Thailand is ranked among the world's top 10 biggest contributors to the world's marine plastic pollution.

The country generates around two million tonnes of plastic waste annually, but only 25% of this is recycled -- most ends up in the sea, polluting coastal areas, destroying their tourism potential and harming marine animals.

In February, 11 turtle hatchlings were found dead in a 700-metre-long floating garbage patch off the coast of Chon Buri. Experts believe they became entangled after mistaking the floating garbage for food.

The main problem with the country's policy on combating plastic pollution is that over the past three decades, it has been stuck at a voluntary reduction.

The PCD's attempt to impose taxes on plastic has been stuck in parliament since the 1990s, while the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration continues to delay its plan to increase the garbage collection rate. The most visible change so far is the voluntary switch to cloth bags instead of single-use plastics.

This does not mean the government is not interested. The Prayut Chan-o-cha government had a vision to turn Thailand into a bio hub of Asean by 2027. The government also banned single-use plastic bags in 2018 and asked retailers not to hand them out for free to shoppers from Jan 1, 2020.

Unfortunately, the push fizzled when Thailand went into lockdown to contain the Covid-19 pandemic later that year. It would be no surprise if the pledge to reduce plastic use turned out to be another load of hot air.

Therefore, it is hoped that Thailand's official participation in the drafting of the international treaty on marine debris will shape the next government's policy on plastic waste management.

The Move Forward Party, which many believe will form the next government, has a lot of environmentalists in its ranks. As such, they have to push harder and introduce tougher laws to reduce plastic waste and promote recycling. Lawmakers must not be hesitant to make polluters pay.

Nature simply can no longer wait.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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