Back To Top

Tackling plastic waste, in honor of Paris pact


On Sept. 15, 15 retailing companies joined hands to launch the no-plastic bag campaign, urging consumers to bring their own bags when shopping at their venues on the 15th of each month. In return, additional discounts are on offer at some shopping centers.

These retailers also plan to step up the efforts, by increasing the number of no-bag shopping days.

For weeks, TV channel Thai PBS has launched the anti-plastic bag campaign. Celebrities have shown their faces, telling the sad stories about fish and turtles. Each year, lots of them died from savoring plastic bags, washed away to the sea, thinking that they were jellyfish. To the channel and the celebrities, it is time for Thais to reduce the use of plastic bags. 

These are actions worth considering, given that plastic is considered a major cause of global warming. A large amount of energy is needed for the production of plastic products and for the elimination of plastic waste.

According to www.timeforchange.org, which is devoted to environmental clauses, the carbon footprint of plastic is about 6 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilogram of plastic. A plastic bag has a weight in the range of about 8-60 grams depending on size and thickness. The carbon footprint of a plastic bag depends. A common plastic carrying bag in our household had a weight between 25-40 g.

Bear in mind that since plastic was introduced to the world early in the 20th century, plastic bag use has been proliferating across the world. In 2013, it is reported that some 299 million tons of plastics were produced and as recycling is insufficient, millions of tons of them end up in landfills and oceans. According to www.conservingnow.org, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are consumed in the U.S. each year. The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. retailers spent $4 billion each year for the 100 billion plastic shopping bags.

Indeed, Thais and people all around the world will need to alter their lifestyles if the goals under the Paris Agreement are to be achieved.

Reducing plastic bags is one of the easiest things to do for Thais. We can go shopping with our own bags.

Yet, reducing plastic bags could be a big headache for Thais as well. As a Kitchen of the World, Thailand has abundant choices of food. Hundreds of thousand restaurants are opened across the kingdom, but a majority of Thais rely more on street food and home cooking. And these food are mostly packed in plastic bags. Plus, fresh meat and seafood still needs plastic bags or wraps.

If Thailand is serious in cutting down plastic consumption, a lot can be done.

Consumer product companies can lend a hand in using less plastic for their product containers. Indeed, Coca-Cola (Thailand) showed us a good example. Its eco-crush bottle, for drinking water, uses 35 percent less PET plastic. If we can do that for drinking water, it should be applicable to other kinds of nonedible products.

A national campaign should also be launched to promote plastic bottle recycling: a discount should be given by all beverage companies that could work hand in hand with recycling companies in handling the plastic waste. 

This could be extended to cover tax incentives for research projects that aim to cut down plastic consumption. Actions to end deforestation, either for crop plantation or accommodation construction, must also be toughened.

More actions are to be done considering the intensifying scale of man-made and natural disasters that people across the world are facing.

Next year, Thailand could face the worst drought, with hundreds of thousands of households to see a cut in their income. The government’s measures to mitigate this, including debt extension and irrigation activities, could not relieve all the troubles.

Over 75,000 residents of the central Philippines were evacuated yesterday as a typhoon hit the country and could cause flooding, landslides and storm surges. It is heartening that all 195 countries have realized that climate change is causing hardships to all global inhabitants. Last week, they voted for the Paris Agreement. The universal agreement’s main aim is to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius — from the preindustrialization level, and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.

To date, 188 countries contribute climate action plans, which will dramatically slow the pace of global greenhouse gas emissions. Now, under the agreement, all 195 countries will submit updated climate plans — called nationally determined contributions — every five years, thereby steadily increasing their ambition in the long-term. 

2015 brings us both good and bad news in terms of our climate. While the agreement is good news, bad news is it is struck just after the release of researches that 2015 could be the hottest year on record. 

Well, it might not be too late to act now. Better late than never.

By Achara Deboonme

Achara Deboonme is senior journalist of the Nation. — Ed.

(Asia News Network)
MOST POPULAR