Thailand’s 13-Year Roadmap on Plastic Waste Management Action Plan phase I (from 2020 to 2022) is coming to an end this year. To move forward, the Pollution Control Department (PCD) has prepared the Action Plan phase II (2022 – 2027) which puts a strong focus on an upstream Circular Economy to promote prevention and preparation for reuse measures. The downstream approach (recycling, recovery and disposal measures) still remains in the Action Plan phase II, also pushing for a better management of “post consumption plastic management”.
In the circular economy waste hierarchy, preventing waste is the most preferred measure as it is the most resource-efficient and environment-friendly strategy while sending waste to landfill for disposal should be the last resort. So far, Thailand’s waste management hierarchy is upside down to the circular economy waste hierarchy. Past measures focused on policies and technologies for disposal, recovery and recycling. As such, recommendations for a Circular Economy Waste Hierarchy for Thailand is presented in Figure 1.
The Collaborative Action for Single-Use Plastic Prevention in Southeast Asia (CAP SEA) project, funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV) under the Export Initiative Green Technologies, recommends setting a clear definition of a Circular Economy in the high-level policy objectives of Thailand. At the same time, measures, activities, investments and other support mechanisms should be designed according to a Circular Economy Waste Hierarchy. Such a waste hierarchy puts prevention and reuse first, and then differentiates between different forms of recycling. In this regard, mechanical material recovery should be preferred to other forms of recycling. In this context, large-scale investments in high-cost technologies, such as waste-to-incineration for energy recovery and pyrolysis as well as gasification for chemical recovery could lead to severe lock-in effects for the future and undermine efforts to promote reuse and mechanical recycling for material recovery, including source segregation and sorting.
The Pollution Control Department (PCD) is a member of the CAP SEA project steering committee and its technical working group on circular economy (CE) policy development. PCD, which is in charge of preparing the Plastic Waste Management Action Plan phase II, has actively participated in the CAP SEA’s Dialogue Series and Deep Dive Workshops and now has the knowledge on such upstream policy topics as:
Germany and EU Single-Use Plastic Directives such as mandatory recycled content targets for PET and all plastic bottles
Essential elements for defining plastic products that can be reused or recycled or that are compostable plastics
Material Flow Analysis (MFA) methodology
Consumption reduction/Reuse Policy and business cases in Germany and Southeast Asia
CAP SEA completed the draft Single-Use Plastic (SUP) prevention policy recommendation paper in March 2022. The policy paper will serve to initiate a dialogue and a basis for plastic value chain’s stakeholder consultation which will take place between April and June 2022 in Thailand. The results of the stakeholder consultation will help in adapting the recommendations of the policy brief and will be handed over to the Circular Economy Subcommittee of the Bio-Circular-Green Economy (BCG) Action Plan 2021-2027, approved by the Cabinet on 8 February 2022, and the Plastic Waste Management Subcommittee of the Pollution Control Board through PCD. At the end, the final policy paper will be published in Thai.
Further to this, CAP SEA also contributes to the ecosystem development for circular plastic economy through Design for Recycling (D4R) guidelines for PET bottles, HDPE containers and PP bottles and cups. The project follows the 1-5 steps of D4R implementation framework illustrated by figure 2 below.
The guidelines will be taken into consideration by the Thailand Industrial Standards Institute (TISI) and undergo a stakeholder consultation from May – July. Once the stakeholder agrees, TISI will publish the guidelines in the Royal Thai Government Gazette, websites and seminars of the TISI to circulate the guidelines to the relevant plastic packaging converters. Besides, the Division of Industrial Product Standards of TISI may also consider including aspects of the D4R standards within their technical specification for plastic packaging products to meet the minimum quality requirements. This would then make (parts of) the standard mandatory and increase its uptake significantly.
On the whole, the D4R guidelines, which serve as a basis for the manufacturing industry to refer to the guidelines for technical specifications of certain materials or products, complement well the Single-Use Plastic (SUP) prevention policy. In other words, the SUP policy paper is a basis for developing the legal umbrella for D4R implementation.