BANGKOK, June 28, 2010 (IPS) – Buy a hairpin and the sales clerk has a microscopic plastic bag for it. A soda purchase from a corner store may end up having the liquid poured into a plastic bag, and then topped off with a plastic straw. There is no plastic bag yet that could fit a car, but if there was one country that could come up with one, Thailand would probably be it.
But here in the capital, local authorities have restarted a campaign to wean the residents of the Thai capital from their plastic bag ‘addiction’.
For the second year in a row, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) is holding its 45-day ‘No Bag, No Baht’ project, which offers consumers a one-baht (three U.S. cents) discount for every 100 baht (nearly three dollars) purchase if they use their own cloth bags when shopping in several local markets. Meanwhile, each plastic bag will cost them one baht.
This year’s BMA campaign was launched on Jun. 5, World Environment Day. Last year, the campaign targeted a cutback of 4.4 million plastic bags among Bangkok consumers. This year, BMA authorities want a cutback that is three times that figure.
BMA figures show that every day, more than 600,000 plastic bags are used in this city of nine million people.
Their annual disposal cost reaches more than 600 million baht (18.4 million dollars), city officials have said. Local media have quoted BMA deputy governor Porntep Techapaibul as saying that of the city’s daily 10,000 tonnes of trash, about 1,800 tonnes are plastic bags, a number projected to increase by about 20 percent each year.
By now, many Bangkok residents have heard of the health and environmental hazards posed by plastic bags. Made from a non-renewable natural resource, petroleum, the bags have for their main ingredient polyethylene — or polythene — which is said to take 1,000 years to decompose on land and 450 years in water.