EPR-Driven PRO Transforms Thai Post-Consumer Packaging Landscape
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EPR-Driven PRO Transforms Thai Post-Consumer Packaging Landscape

Thailand's proactive shift towards EPR-driven PRO innovation.

Academics indicate that the government is advancing the drafting of the 'Sustainable Packaging Management Bill B.E. [Year].' One of the highlights of this draft legislation is the proposed establishment of a Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) to guide and motivate entrepreneurs across all packaging sectors to unite under the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) principles.

This initiative complements the efforts of seven top-tier companies constituting the Packaging Recovery Organisation Thailand, or PRO-Thailand Network. Currently, the network has been piloting the collection of post-consumer packaging, notably PET plastic bottles, UHT beverage cartons, and multilayered plastic packaging, which includes items like snack bags, refill pouches, and coffee sachets.

Assistant Prof. Dr. Panate Manomaivibool, Head of the Research Centre for Circular Economy for Waste-free Thailand (CEWT) at the School of Science, Mae Fah Luang University, states, “The Pollution Control Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has entrusted the Academic Service Centre at Mae Fah Luang University with the task of drafting the Sustainable Packaging Management Bill in alignment with EPR principles. The EPR approach mandates that the industry manages packaging from its design phase through distribution and usage. Such a strategy eases the burden on local governments, which traditionally grapple with post-consumer packaging management—often lacking the resources to collect and sort these packaging for effective recycling or energy conversion.”

Assistant Prof. Dr. Panate underlines the significance of founding a PRO organisation rooted in EPR principles. Adopting a "Pull-Strategy" approach, this move compels a consortium of stakeholders—brand owners, product manufacturers, importers, and packaging producers—to take charge of post-consumer packaging. This responsibility involves partnering with collection agents to ensure that discarded packaging neither harms the environment nor accumulates in landfills. A national PRO, representing these entrepreneurs, is viewed as a pivotal step, tasked with devising a sustainable packaging management blueprint, establishing a collection system, and segregating post-consumer packaging from other waste. Emphasis is placed on products made from four core materials: plastic, metal, glass, and paper. These materials are commonly used in food and beverage containers such as PET and HDPE bottles, multi-layered plastic packaging, UHT beverage cartons, personal care items, cosmetics, and transport packaging.

"Post-consumer packaging from the specified four categories collectively amounts to an estimated 3-4 million tonnes annually, accounting for 10-15% of the nation's total waste. Based on the assumption that the minimum cost of handling post-consumer packaging is 1 baht per kilogram, the national budget might need an allocation of 3-4 billion baht annually for waste management. With the inception of the PRO, a mechanism now exists for entrepreneurs to take on the sustainable packaging management responsibility—a model already witnessed as successful in numerous countries," stated Assistant Prof. Dr. Panate.

In Thailand, the private sector collaboratively formed the Packaging Recovery Organisation, or PRO-Thailand Network, in 2019. It was officially inaugurated in late June 2023. This organisation is dedicated to promoting the collection of post-consumer packaging for recycling and upcycling, with an overarching goal of reducing environmental pollution. At present, this voluntary network consists of seven member companies: Coca-Cola (Thailand) Ltd., Suntory PepsiCo Beverage (Thailand) Co., Ltd., Tetra Pak (Thailand) Ltd., ThaiNamthip Corporation Ltd., Nestlé (Thai) Ltd., Pepsi-Cola (Thai) Trading Co., Ltd., and SIG Combibloc Ltd.

In its pilot project from 2020 to 2022, the PRO-Thailand Network collected 25,134.15 tonnes of post-consumer PET bottles and 180.49 tonnes of used beverage cartons, including those for milk, juice, and coconut milk. Additionally, the network gathered around 78.56 tonnes of multilayered plastic (MLP) packaging waste, such as snack bags, refill pouches, and coffee sachets.

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