Starting January 1st, 43 shopping malls and convenience stores in Thailand will cease the use of single-use plastic bags, in response to the Government’s policy to completely phase them out.
One major obstacle in the drive to phase them out is the cost of producing dissolvable or degradable non-plastic bags which is, presently, about 2-3 times higher than that of single-use plastic bags.
The National Science and Technology Development Agency has come up with dissolvable non-plastic bags, produced from tapioca flour, which are elastic, strong and dissolve easily in water or in the ground in just 3-4 months.
The Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovations has been coordinating with the Thai private sector to produce dissolvable non-plastic bags from tapioca flour under the zero-waste concept.
About 20,000 prototype dissolvable bags were produced by TSTDA, the Metallurgy, Materials Science Research Institute and the Thai Bio-plastic Industrial Association for test use at the Thai Red Cross fair in Bangkok last month.
Plastic bag producers are, however, concerned that their businesses will be hit hard if the Government goes ahead with banning the use of plastic bags next year, without giving them enough time to make adjustments, deal with their machinery and with leftover plastic stockpiles.
The Thai Plastic Industry Association recently submitted an open letter to the Government, expressing their support for the use of dissolvable non-plastic bags to protect the environment, but would like the Government to consider alleviating their problems, in case they have to stop producing single-use plastic bags, including by buying their remaining stockpiles and compensation for workers laid off by the closure of their factories.
Mr. Khem Wanglee, managing director of the first company to produce bio plastic from tapioca flour, admitted that the prohibitive production cost remains the main obstacle to full-scale production.
He suggested tax breaks for the producers and private enterprises which use the degradable bags.