Dept readies for purge of plastic waste
Aims to clear parks of up to 3 million pieces
The Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) will launch a campaign to ban plastic bags and styrofoam food boxes in all national parks from Aug 12 to reduce rubbish that pollutes the nature reserves and threatens wildlife.
"It is an ambitious plan. But we aim to reduce single-use plastic and styrofoam material by three million pieces. We want this campaign to become a model for other places to reduce plastic garbage, Jongklai Worapongsathorn, the DNP's deputy chief said yesterday.
Tourists will be banned from bringing in plastic bags, straws and utensils as well as styrofoam food boxes into the parks, Mr Jongklai said.
"If this causes inconvenience to tourists, we'll lend them cloth bags and other materials which are more friendly to the environment," said Mr Jongklai.
However, Mr Jongklai believed about 10 million people, including visitors and vendors, will go along with the campaign.
The department also plans to adopt measures to reuse and recycle garbage, hoping to make itself an example-setter in waste management.
The DNP oversees 154 national parks across the country, many of which are major tourist destinations that generate significant revenue. Up to 16 million tourists visit national parks annually, according to the DNP.
However, visitors do not only bring in cash, but rubbish, much of which are is bags and styrofoam food packages. Most of this waste is left in parks. Plastic bags and styrofoam take at least 500 years to decompose. thereby hurting the environment and animals.
At Khao Yai National Park, the most popular land-based park, officials are finding an increasing amount of wild animals having died of digestive system failure. Park officials have found most had pieces of plastic waste in their stomachs and intestines, Mr Jongklai said. Earlier this year, people were shocked after learning about the death of a male short-finned pilot whale, which had up to 80 plastic bags weighing 8 kilogrammes in its stomach.
According to the Pollution Control Department, Thailand generates two million tons of plastic waste a year, or 12% of the total garbage. Only 25% of plastic waste is properly disposed of, meaning the other 1.5 million is left polluting the environment.
Ocean Conservancy, a US-based environmental advocacy group, said in its 2015 report that Thailand, along with China, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, are responsible for more than half of the 8 million tonnes of plastic dumped into the world's oceans each year.