Thailand’s Ministry of Finance is keen to convince vendors and department stores to charge customers for plastic bags in a bid to cut the country’s vast waste problem.

Suwit Rojanavanich, head of the ministry’s Fiscal Policy Office, has met officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to discuss ways to motivate citizens to cut their use of shopping bags, synthetic containers and non-biodegradable waste to help reduce plastic waste.

The Ministry of Finance has been trying to agree on the best solution for other ministries to implement. Officials have discussed getting vendors, department stores and supermarkets to charge 1-2 baht (just 3 to 6 US cents) for each bag that customers get.

They said the fee would help motivate customers to bring a shopping bag or basket when they out to buy food or other items.

Charging a fee for plastic bags has been introduced in many countries, including developed nations in Europe, plus Japan, as a way to reduce waste.

Thai officials believe the move could help to greatly cut the amount of plastic used in the kingdom, which has been rated as one of the worst sources of plastic that ends up in the world’s oceans.

However, there are fears that owners of department stores or markets may not agree to charge the fee if it is left as a voluntary measure – if they believe it will affect their income or deter customers, as Thai people have been used to getting plastic bags for free.

This measure, which has been debated in the media for some time, is still being considered by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

Thailand is due to face an election at the end of February next year, but it is not known if a decision on this problem – one of the country’s most serious environmental concerns – will be made before then.

Some observers fear that the current administration, headed by General Prayut Chan-ocha, which has been keen to emphasize economic growth and stability, may not have the nerve to impose a mandatory fee on plastic bags prior to an election that may be tough to win.

 

Read: Mandatory levy needed on plastic bags, Greenpeace says