Thailand began 2000 with a ban on single-use plastic bags at major stores, continuing a campaign launched by the government and retailers towards a complete ban in 2021 to reduce plastic waste in the sea.
Public awareness of the risk to animals and the environment from such waste was raised last year in a series of incidents where animals including a deer and a baby dugong were found dead with plastics in their digestive systems.
“Thailand was ranked at number sixth among the world’s top countries that dump waste into the sea,” Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Varawut Silpa-Archa told reporters after handing out reusable bags to the public. “During the past five months, we were down to the 10th of the rank. Within just five to six months we managed to come down by up to four ranks, thanks to the cooperation of the Thai people.”
The ministry says the country reduced the use of plastic bags by 2 billion, or about 5,765 tonnes last year, in the first phase of a campaign that encourages consumers to voluntarily refuse plastic bags from stores.
Varawut said the most challenging aspect would be the last 40 percent of plastic bags used at fresh markets and in rural areas.
“At first, I was not used to it [bringing shopping bags] because sometimes I just came [with] bare hands and forgot about it. When I remember, I will carry it along,” one shopper at a supermarket, Supanee Burut-thong, told Reuters.
A number of U.S. states have passed plastic bag bans. California was the first state to do so, followed by New York state. More recently, Maine and Vermont followed wuit. Hawaii has essentially banned plastic bags, as all its counties have implemented plastic bag reduction laws.
Epoch Times staff contributed to this report.