Thailand might postpone recycled plastic ban on imports due to industrial shortage

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DIW Thailand
The meeting of the Department of Industrial Works subcommittee on plastics and electronic waste management

A ban on imports of plastics for recycling in Thailand might have to be postponed as its industrial sector does not have enough material for its needs.

Thailand’s Pollution Control Department (PCD) director general Pralong Damrongthai told the Bangkok Post newspaper that the domestic supply of plastic was not producing enough for the country’s manufacturers.

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On the potential postponement of the ban due to be introduced in January he said: “That is a possible option, but the financial decision is to be made by the subcommittee on plastic and electronic waste management chaired by the Environment Minister, who disagrees with imports.”

The meeting, held last week, was requested after the Department of Industrial Works (DIW) asked the subcommittee for a postponement of the ban in order to support its industrial sector.

In order to supply enough plastic for recycling, the PCD has requested an import quota of 650,000 tonnes for 2021 and therefore a postponement of the ban.

At the subcommittee meeting, the DIW was ordered to present figures showing local demand from manufacturers for plastic waste at a meeting at the end of this month, and where a decision will be made on whether to continue or postpone the ban.


Paul’s view

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

This is an interesting development by Thailand’s Department of Industrial Works and Pollution Control Department.

Many countries have been quick to follow the example of China and ban imports of plastics in particular (some are also following its example and looking at reducing imports of paper and cardboard followed by an eventual ban).

But could other nations find themselves in the same predicament as Thailand where they do not have the domestic infrastructure to provide enough material for their industrial bases?

As I reported recently, Turkey is looking to halve its imports of recyclable materials, but its collection system is said to be poor too.

Clearly, these countries need to improve their own collection infrastructure, but they may find that they still need imports in the short- to medium-term to feed their economies.

These countries aren’t China, which has the wealth, will and size to set things up quickly. But nobody is quite sure whether China has over-reacted, especially for paper/cardboard and metals, and we’ll probably find out next year if it is struggling to get the materials it needs for its manufacturing sector too.

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