New panel set up to tackle waste disposal
Quota for trash imports also eyed
A new subcommittee on plastic and electronic waste will intensify garbage disposal measures by reviewing the existing quota on waste imports.
The panel will work under the National Environment Board, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, which on Thursday resolved to endorse its establishment. The new 29-member panel will be led by Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa.
Once the group starts working, "a review on waste imports is most likely", Pollution Control Department chief and subcommittee's secretary, Pralong Damrongthai, said .
The government has already cancelled the import of 422 types of electronic waste and is only allowing recyclable second-hand electronic items. "But we may review whether we really need them," Mr Pralong said.
The panel is also likely to reconsider quotas granted to the import of plastic waste for recycling, he added.
Thailand, which imported 480,000 tonnes of plastic garbage in 2018, was ranked third among other Asean importers, following Malaysia (872,797 tonnes) and Vietnam (492,839 tonnes), according to Greenpeace.
Many foreign companies in Thailand have been granted permission to import garbage for recycled plastic that can be sold. These firms are based in Thailand due to low operating costs and, according to Greenpeace, less stringent laws on plastic trash imports.
Up to 220,000 tonnes of plastic waste can be brought in until importers' licences expire in September, Industrial Work Department chief Prakop Wiwitthachinda said. After September, "plastic waste will not be imported unless the new panel issues a new policy", Mr Prakop said.
Separately, the Commerce Ministry is looking for ways to help paper-recycling businesses after the price of waste paper dropped to less than one baht per kilogramme thanks to an increase in trash imports last year from from 1.6 million tonnes to 1.8 million tonnes.
In a meeting with business representatives on Thursday, Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit urged them to jointly set a price they see most appropriate first.
This will allow the ministry to assess the situation more correctly, officials said, adding it may consider adopting "safeguard" measures designed to protect local industries from foreign goods' impact.