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20 Jan 2022

Econ Digest

World Crisis...Our Crisis Reducing and Sorting Waste…Save the World, Save Us


​         EU Scientists released their latest research on January 10, 2022, finding that the Earth has warmed significantly over the past seven years. Compared to 1850, the average temperature has risen by 1.1-1.2 degrees Celsius. In 2021, the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) emitted into the atmosphere hit a record high1. The widespread use of plastics is partly responsible for the warming planet, as the destruction and degradation of plastic waste produces carbon dioxide, methane2 and ethylene that are released into the Earth’s atmosphere.

        The growing popularity of food delivery over the past two years has fueled continued growth in the food delivery service business, in part due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and work-from-home measures, which have led to a preference for home delivery of food. As the food delivery service business grows, so does the impact of the increased amount of plastic waste. Figures from the Pollution Control Department show that the amount of waste in January-April 2021 increased to 9,600 tons/day from 8,800 tons/day in the same period last year. The plastic waste generation rate has increased from 96 g/person/day before the COVID-19 outbreak to the current 139 g/person/day3, or as measured by the number of plastic pieces, the average generation rate of plastic waste has increased from 7 to 94, of which only 25% of this plastic waste can be recycled after consumption5.
        KResearch predicts that the market value of the food delivery service business will reach THB79 billion6 in 2022, which is expected to grow by 4.5%. Accompanying the growth of the food delivery business is an increase in the amount of plastic waste, which will rise to 3.684 billion pieces7 in 2022, weighing the equivalent of about 55,260 tons, or the weight of 13,815 elephants8. When considering the carbon footprint or calculating the amount of carbon dioxide produced by these plastics, it amounts to 331,560 tons9, and it is expected that most of the waste generated by food delivery services will not be reused because the waste is not properly sorted at source (about 75%), and this waste is worth as much as THB174 million10.
        The government aims to reduce the amount of waste destruction by 30% by 2022 and to stop using 4 types of single-use plastics, namely: (1) thin portable plastic bags with thickness of less than 36 microns; (2) foam food packaging boxes; (3) plastic glasses with thickness less than 100 microns; (4) plastic straws, and the government supports the use of environmentally friendly renewable materials. The government will also promote the recycling of 7 types of plastics in a circular economy system, namely: (1) hand-held plastic bags; (2) single-layer plastic film packaging; (3) various plastic bottles; (4) bottle caps; (5) plastic glasses; (6) food trays/boxes, and (7) plastic spoons/forks/knives. These are the actions implemented under Phase I (2020-2022)11 of the Plastic Waste Management Action Plan. However, the above-mentioned actions of the government are not enforced by laws or regulations like Scandinavian countries, the European Union, Japan or China, which have enacted measures to ban single-use plastics and strict garbage sorting and recycling measures. Therefore, if tangible results are to be achieved in Thailand, all sectors must recognize the problem and work together to address it seriously, especially by changing behaviors to reduce and properly sort waste. This will help improve the efficiency of waste disposal and reduce the environmental impact in a sustainable manner.

1 https://www.reuters.com/markets/commodities/eu-scientists-call-action-greenhouse-gas-levels-hit-high-2021-2022-01-10/
Methane is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide, but stays in the atmosphere for less than 12 years, while carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for more than 100 years. (cited from https://www.sdgmove.com/2021/09/09/reducing-methane-emissions-the-fastest-way-to-reduce-global-warming/and https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/double-trouble-plastics-found-emit-potent-greenhouse-gases)
3 https://www.thaipost.net/main/detail/106333
4 Compared to the average weight of 15 grams of plastic waste per piece (cited in Boonchanit Wongprapinkul and Suchitra Wasanadamrongdee (2021). “Plastic Waste from Online Food Ordering: Status, Issues and Solutions (Part 1). Environmental Journal 25th Annual (Issue 1). http://www.ej.eric.chula.ac.th/content/6137 /301)
5 Information from the Pollution Control Department (https://www.pcd.go.th/garbage/ Government Agency’s Waste Reduction and Waste Sorting Measures - and Promotion of Waste Reduction and Waste Sorting - Training on Waste Reduction and Waste Sorting)
6 KResearch, Food Delivery, 2022: Growing Steadily as Application Service Providers Penetrate Upcountry to Expand New Customer Base, Current Issue, Year 27, No. 3289, December 8, 2021.
7An elephant for comparison weighs 4 tons
8Calculated by researchers
9The carbon footprint equivalent to 1kg of plastic produces 6kg of carbon dioxide. (https://stopplastics.ca/carbon-footprint-plastic)
10The average price of plastic recycling is THB3 per kilogram, and the average plastic bottle is THB8 per kilogram (price as of January 13, 2022, http://www.wongpanit.com/print_history_price/1398)
11https://www.pcd.go.th/pcd_news/15917/ and https://www.pcd.go.th/publication/15038/

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