Thailand may allow plastic imports for up to two more years ahead of eventual ban

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Thailand Environment Minister Warawut Silpa-archa
Thailand Environment Minister Warawut Silpa-archa

Thailand’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environment has said that the country will look to ban imports of plastics for recycling within the next two years.

Warawut Silpa-Archa last week chaired a meeting of the Plastic and Electronic Waste Management Subcommittee that was tasked with the outcome of measures to control the import of plastic waste, promoting utilisation of plastic waste generated in Thailand and handling of plastic waste containers.

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As a result of the meeting, he has appointed two working groups under the subcommittee to investigate the environmental impact from 129 plastics factories and another to investigate the import of plastic scrap.

The working groups will have 60 days to survey the real demand for recycled plastics in Thailand to determine the quantity of imported material that suits the country.

Following the 60 day survey, a decision will me made on when Thailand will ban the import of plastics.

Thailand will also immediately introduce new regulations that will mean illegal containers must be returned to the country of origin.

Minister Warawut Silpa-archa said: “I am aiming for the management of plastic and electronic waste. Thailand has made concrete progress at today’s meeting to set up a working group to expedite the survey of domestic plastic waste and whether it is necessary to bring garbage into Thailand. If it has to be imported into Thailand, it must be in a controlled quantity.

“If in 2021 we can stop imports, we will stop. But if there is an initial need, then we will allow one to two more years. In the end, there must be no more waste imported into Thailand.”

Last month, Thailand’s Pollution Control Department warned that the country was not generating enough of its own plastic to feed its factories, and that it was requesting an import quota of 650,000 tonnes for 2021.

Paul’s view

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

Thailand is clearly on a path towards banning the import of plastic waste.

The only question left remaining is when?

Minister Warawut Silpa-archa wants it to be as soon as next year but has come around to arguments that it should be phased in based on the need of the countries 129 plastic factories that use recycled materials.

Last month, Thailand’s Pollution Control Department requested import quota of 650,000 tonnes for 2021 to allows its plastic manufacturing sector to continue operating, as it recognised that the country wasn’t generating enough material from its emerging waste management collection system.

But this request was turned down by the Minister who wants to ban plastic imports as soon as possible, even describing this as “a gift” to the Thai people.

However, he has now set up these two subcommittee’s to investigate how much material needs to be imported and then he will decide on whether to ban plastic imports or not.

What is clear though is that a ban is coming by 2023 at the latest, but possibly as early as next year.

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