Unless you have been living under a rock, you would know that plastic pollution has completely taken over our oceans. It’s so bad that microplastics have been found in our deepest ocean animals that live 10,890 meters below the sea surface, and sperm whales have been found with plastic-filled stomachs. Almost everyone contributes to this, as living a plastic-free life is still very challenging and inconvenient. However, some countries have started to be more proactive in solving the problem.
The latest to do so is Thailand, which announced on Friday that some of the biggest retailers and department stores in the country will stop handing out plastic bags by January 2020. In the meantime, they will also encourage shoppers to use cloth bags instead.
This is part of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry’s “Everyday Say No To Plastic Bags” campaign, which is in collaboration with 43 private stores. Thailand’s environment minister Varuwat Silpa-archa told Xinhua News Agency that “Thailand is ranked sixth in the world for generating sea waste,” so "we must demonstrate to the world that we are showing efforts in reducing single use plastic bags."
"This cooperation will help Thailand leave the list of major generators of waste and sea garbage," he said.
The Chiang Rai Times reported that approximately 30 percent of the 45 billion single-use plastic bags used in Thailand per year come from department and convenience stores, so this effort could radically reduce the country’s waste. Apart from limiting the use of plastic bags, the government also vowed to recycle all plastics by 2030.
On a grassroots level, other Asian countries have tried to address the issue of plastic waste as well. Supermarkets in the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam have started ditching plastic to wrap their produce and have turned to banana leaves. At the start of the year, South Korea banned the use of disposable plastic bags. The law pushed 2,000 outlets of major discount chains and 11,000 supermarkets to provide customers with recyclable containers or cloth and paper bags.
According to a United Nations report from 2015, about half of the plastic waste that ends up in oceans comes from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.