Thailand considering plastic import ban from 1 January 2022

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Wurawut Silpa-archa
Thailand's Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Wurawut Silpa-archa chairing the Plastic and Electronic Waste Subcommittee

The Government of Thailand will look into the possibility of a plastic import ban from 1 January 2022.

Following a meeting of the Plastic and Electronic Waste Management Subcommittee, chaired by Minister for Natural Resources and Environment Warawut Silpa-archa, a recommendation was made by the subcommittee for the ban from the start of next year.

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It also suggested that there should be tougher measures to control illegal imports after that date.

This recommendation will now be considered by the Thai National Environment Board and the Government’s cabinet for further consideration.

If the National Environment Board approves the ban, it will request that the Thai Ministry of Commerce issues a notification to ban plastic imports.

The subcommittee also looked at a report that was commissioned by the Minister into whether the country’s 157 plastic recycling facilities that use imported material would be able to switch to domestic sources. It also investigated defining plastic waste in order to clarify recycled plastic imports. However, details of these discussions were not made available by the Thai government.

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

Paul’s view

Last October, Thailand’s Minister for Natural Resources Warawut Silpa-archa chaired a meeting of this same Plastic and Electronic Waste Management Subcommittee and suggested that a ban on recycled plastic imports would be implemented within two years.

However, the Minister has always been a hawk wanting to bring a ban in sooner.

Indeed, in announcements following the October meeting he floated the idea of bringing in a ban this year.

But Thailand Pollution Control Department director general Pralong Damrongthai had warned in September that the country would not have all the plastic it needed for its manufacturing sector if a ban were implemented and recommended an import quota of 650,000 tonnes for recycled plastics in 2021.

In response, the Minister ordered two surveys to take place. One was into the environmental pollution caused by plastic recycling in the country, while the other was to look into the import of recycled plastics and to determine the quantity of imports that would suit the country.

While no details have been published on the results of these surveys, it would appear they have backed up the view of the Minister that is likely to lead to a ban by the end of this year.

It is also unclear if the 650,000 tonnes quota has been allowed for 2021.

Thailand isn’t a huge destination for UK plastics, with just over 1,000 tonnes headed there between January and November in 2020.

But it is further evidence of the move westwards of plastic recycling.

Malaysia is still a possible destination, and tightened rules last year, but will perhaps feel under increasing pressure to follow the example of other Asian nations to restrict imports further.

With Turkey banning mixed plastics at the start of this year, increasingly the recycled plastic market for UK firms is looking like a domestic and European one.

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