Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Coronavirus Worsens Thailand's Plastic Waste Crisis

Climate
A food delivery courier packs an order in Bangkok on March 25, 2020, after the government limited restaurants to takeout during the COVID-19 pandemic. MLADEN ANTONOV / AFP / Getty Images

By Tanika Godbole

Southeast Asia is one of the biggest sources of plastic waste from land to the ocean, and Thailand is among the top five contributors. In January, Thailand placed a ban on single-use plastic, and was looking to reduce its plastic waste by 30% this year.


But the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdown has led to a huge rise in the country's plastic waste. According to the Thailand Environment Institute (TEI), the average amount of plastic waste went from 2,120 tons per day in 2019 to approximately 3,440 tons per day between January and April 2020. The rise in the month of April alone was nearly 62%.

Food Delivery

One of the biggest contributors to the plastic problem is food delivery. As people have been housebound, their tendency to order food delivery has risen, resulting in increased usage of plastic containers and wrapping material.

Grab, a Singaporean food delivery app, saw a surge of 400% in orders. Other such apps like Line Man and Foodpanda Thailand, too, have seen a rise of 300% and 50% in their orders, respectively.

Waste from a single delivery could contain several plastic items such as containers, seasoning packets, beverage holders, chopsticks, spoons, forks and so on.

"Plastic containers for food are often contaminated, the waste separation and collection are not systematic, and there is no regulation on waste separation and enforcement," said Wijarn Simachaya, President of TEI.

Waste Management

While countries across North America, Europe and Japan also contribute high levels of plastic waste, they have relatively efficient waste management systems in place.

The Thai government had released a "Plastic Waste Management Road Map," to phase out the use of plastic by 2030. One of the initiatives of this plan was the single-use plastic ban that has been enforced since January.

According to data released by the Department of Environment and Quality Promotion, an average person in Thailand uses about 8 plastic bags per day, which adds up to 200 billion per year.

According to Greenpeace, imported plastic waste is also adding to Thailand's plastic crisis. Their research has revealed that imports of plastic waste into the country jumped two years ago, mostly due to China's decision to ban imports at the start of 2018.

"This has put added pressure on a waste system which is already failing to deal with domestic demand. Making matters worse, much of it is mislabeled as 'recyclable' even though the shipments constitute hundreds of thousands of tons of contaminated plastic and other mixed wastes from developed countries that cannot be processed," said Pichmol Rugrod, team leader of Plastic Free Future, Greenpeace Thailand.

"Thailand is in the grip of a growing plastic waste crisis - both domestically, through overproduction and consumption, and via the importation of plastic waste from abroad," Rugrod told DW. "Much of this plastic simply ends up in landfill sites or dumped in our streets because of a lack of waste management options, exacerbating urban flooding, or polluting rivers, seas and oceans - killing wildlife and affecting the food chain."

Widespread

Some say the pandemic has merely brought to the surface an already existing problem for the country. Experts believe that greater awareness and lifestyle changes among the masses could help address this issue.

The effects of plastic waste are long term. The pollution affects the oceans, aquatic life and also humans.

"Plastic pollution may also be contaminating the air that we breathe every day. Plastics do not biodegrade, therefore once they are introduced into an animal's system, they will stay there for a long time. Therefore, consuming these plastics leads to malnutrition, digestive blockage and slow poisoning effects due to plastic's heightened toxicity," Simachaya told DW.

While the pandemic may have been a setback to Thailand's struggle to eliminate plastic waste, Simachaya believes a change in awareness and habits will lead to a gradual decrease in plastic waste.

Thailand is slowly starting to ease lockdown rules. While it is too premature to say whether the plastic waste levels are expected to go down, some delivery outlets have started offering bio-degradable containers and cutlery. Some online shopping companies are also giving the option of receiving packages without the use of plastic.

Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A crowd of climate activists march behind a banner in NYC during Climate Week on September 20, 2020. Erik McGregor / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Breanna Draxler

After decades on the political periphery, the climate movement is entering the mainstream in 2020, with young leaders at the fore. The Sunrise Movement now includes more than 400 local groups educating and advocating for political action on climate change. Countless students around the world have clearly communicated what's at stake for their futures, notably Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who just finished her yearlong school strike for climate. Youth activists have been praised for their flexible, big-picture thinking and ability to harness social media to deliver political wins, as Sunrise recently did for U.S. Sen. Ed Markey's primary campaign. They necessarily challenge the status quo.

Read More Show Less
Presidential nominee Joe Biden has not taken a stance on gas exports, including liquefied natural gas. Ken Hodge / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Simon Montlake

For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.

All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Eating lots of fruits and vegetables will boost the immune system. Stevens Fremont / The Image Bank / Getty Images

By Grayson Jaggers

The connection between the pandemic and our dietary habits is undeniable. The stress of isolation coupled with a struggling economy has caused many of us to seek comfort with our old friends: Big Mac, Tom Collins, Ben and Jerry. But overindulging in this kind of food and drink might not just be affecting your waistline, but could potentially put you at greater risk of illness by hindering your immune system.

Read More Show Less
A graphic shows how Rhoel Dinglasan's smartphone-based saliva test works. University of Florida

As the world continues to navigate the line between reopening and maintaining safety protocols to slow the spread of the coronavirus, rapid and accurate diagnostic screening remains critical to control the outbreak. New mobile-phone-based, self-administered COVID-19 tests being developed independently around the world could be a key breakthrough in making testing more widely available, especially in developing nations.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A meteorologist monitors weather in NOAA's Center for Weather and Climate Prediction on July 2, 2013 in Riverdale, Maryland. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

The Trump White House is now set to appoint two climate deniers to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in one month.

Read More Show Less