by Ellen Putri Edita and Hendro Putra Johannes • 18 February 2022

18 February 2022: The Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) and Thailand Environment Institute (TEI) co-organised a webinar today that focused on the role played by the private sector in Thailand to address the pressing issue of marine plastics. Representatives from the government of Thailand, the private sector, an international organisation, and research institutes, gathered at the event to discuss innovative approaches proposed to reduce and replace single-use plastics

In his opening remark, Mr Michikazu Kojima, Research Fellow of ERIA, stated that while private sectors have many potentials to innovate new technologies and products, one company alone is not enough to change the whole economic system. It is important for the entire ASEAN+3 region to learn from the successes and challenges from the experience coming from Thailand, he concluded.

TEI President Mr Wijarn Simachaya, the President of TEI, explained how the government, private sector, and people in general have collaborated to plastic waste in Thailand through Public Private Partnership (PPP) Plastics project that does not only concern plastic waste reduction, but also smart use of plastics.

‘Since plastic pollution is a borderless issue, it is fundamental to tackle the problem together, especially in the Southeast Asian region,’ Mr Simachaya concluded.

Mr Athapol Charoenshunsa, Director General of Pollution Control Department of Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Thailand, underlined that cooperation with private sector has successfully reduced production of thin plastic bag by 43 percent, thin plastic cup by 32 percent, foam container by 20 percent, and plastic straw by 33 percent.

‘The government does not allow any new infrastructure to produce these plastic products, while keep reducing the production rate of existing infrastructures. Furthermore, a platform is being prepared to support local government agencies, raise community awareness, educate household on waste segregation, and others,’ Mr Charoenshunsa asserted.

Also read: Mr Athapol Charoenshunsa’s Presentation

Ms Somchit Nilthanom, Head of PPP Plastics, shared lessons learned from a PPP Plastics project called Rayong Less-Waste (Rayong Model), which is supported by Alliance to End Plastic Waste. She said public participation could be enhanced by improving people’s understanding about the project through verbal and practical training, such as about waste segregation.

‘This model is also targeting school children, by assigning teachers and school administrators as their role models. Moreover, a manual has been set up to guide communities or other government agencies on step-by-step implementation of the model,’ Ms Nilthanom said.

She highlighted the importance building strong connection with local authorities who are working directly with local community, to make the latter more willing to cooperate.

Also read: Ms Somchit Nilthanom’s Presentation

Innovations and Extended Producer Responsibility

Mr Byul Kim from Sri the Shophouse Restaurant, which uses sustainable materials for cutleries to avoid single-use plastics, said alternative materials for plastic are currently more available that the price decreases. However, he indicated that providing plastic alternatives is necessary to educate people and give people options.

Also read: Mr Byul Kim’s Presentation

Dr Weerachat Kittirattanapaiboon, CEO of Biodegradable Packaging for Environment Public Co., Ltd., showcased the company’s innovation called GRACZ—a compostable product made from natural ‘left-over’ materials like rice husk, corn husk, sugarcane, and bamboo to replace single-use plastic packaging. The company transforms these wastes into valuable products like cups, glasses, plates, hospital sets, and decorative items.

‘They are non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, totally compostable in 45 days, microwavable, oven-friendly, and can be frozen,’ Dr Kittirattanapaiboon said.

Also read: Dr Weerachat Kittrattanapaiboon’s Presentation

Mr Susawee Ondam from Kao Industrial Thailand explained that the company is working on the enforcement of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) that covers waste management system and circular economy. In terms of waste management system, Kao collaborates with other companies on product packaging, and provides several drop points for customers to drop the waste. In regards to circular economy, Kao is working to substitute the multi-layered plastic packaging.

‘Since Kao is a mass production company, some product packaging cannot be recycled still. We are now working with other companies to substitute them’, said Mr. Ondam.

Also read: Mr Susawee Ondam’s Presentation

Ms Napaporn Yuberk, Advisor/National Coordinator for CAP SEA in Thailand, explained about a collaborative action of single use plastic prevention in the Southeast Asia called the CAP SEA project. In Indonesia, the project helped scaling up the start-up companies for food delivery. In Malaysia, the project is incubating the two re-use start-up companies, and in Thailand, it runs a multistakeholder project to prevent the single use plastics.

Also read: Ms Napaporn Yuberk’s Presentation

Mr Simachaya of TEI underlined that while the alternative materials for plastics are great, we have to be aware about the entire life cycle of the materials and the impact for the climate change.

As for reusable products, Ms Yuberk said that the companies have set the indicators for the hygiene to keep food containers from being contaminated. In addition, Dr Kittirattanapaiboon of Biodegradable Packaging for Environment Public added that his company uses over 200 degrees Celsius of heat to prevent chemical contamination.

Ms Benjamas Chotthong from TEI concluded that Thailand has a clear direction towards plastic waste free mission, thanks to administrative supports at national and local level. The national target may not be achieved yet, she said, but it is a good reminder to work further, accelerating the on-going efforts among public and private sector.