Thai minister sows confusion over 2026 plastic import ban

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Thai Minister Warawut Silpa-archa
Thai Minister Warawut Silpa-archa at the Subcommittee meeting

Thailand’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environment has created doubt over the country’s 2026 plastic import ban by ordering a review on the implementation date.

The Ministry had previously announced that it would gradually reduce imports of plastics up to an eventual ban in 2026.

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But Warawut Silpa-archa has now told the country’s Pollution Control Department that it must review this date and look at alternative options including a ban this year, in 2023 or the existing 2026 deadline.

This order was made in a meeting of the Subcommittee on Plastic and Electronic Waste that was chaired by the Minister.

Thai Minister Warawut Silpa-archa has been a hawk wanting to bring a ban in sooner, but has been at odds with both the Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Foreign Affairs that don’t want to damage the country’s plastic recycling industry with a sudden ban.

This has also been the view of the Pollution Control Department that has argued Thailand’s plastic recycling sector needs more material than it can currently source from under-developed domestic collections.

Indeed, the Pollution Control Department published a press release days before the meeting, pointing out that the Ministry had confirmed the 2026 ban policy, which implies that it was aware of the potential for the Minister to review the ban.

Paul’s view

Paul Sanderson, REB Market Intelligence
Paul Sanderson, REB Market Intelligence

There is clearly a tension at the heart of the Thai government over when to ban the import of scrap plastics.

The issue looked settled at the beginning of August when the country announced it would reduce imports of recycled plastics by 50% each year until an eventual ban from the beginning of 2026.

This appeared to be a compromise that allowed Thai plastics recyclers the opportunity to continue their businesses, while giving the country’s domestic collection infrastructure the time to supply the raw materials that would be lost by the import ban.

But Environment Minister Warawut Silpa-archa has muddied the waters by ordering this review, which appears counter to the wishes of the Pollution Control Department and the Ministries of Commerce and Foreign Affairs.

It may be that the 2026 date is confirmed as the best option by this review.

The losers in all of this are likely to be Thai plastic recycling businesses, who need clarity. Many have already lost the opportunity to import raw material on the assumption made by many in the global market that a ban was imminent, only for it to be extended to 2026.

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