As of 8 June 2018, visitors are prohibited from taking plastic carrier bags, foam boxes, cups, and containers into all of Thailand’s 150+ national parks. The ban also extends to zoos that fall under the control of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. The country’s National Park Office announced the new measures via Facebook, along with reasons for the decision.
According to the National Park Office, the plastic and foam ban is intended to help reduce trash pollution. Thailand is a major manufacturer of plastics, and much of the waste found in Thailand’s national parks comprise items intended for single use, including disposable cutlery, plastic bags, and styrofoam cups. The National Park Office urges everyone to be more environmentally aware and take steps to protect the planet for future generations.
The Facebook announcement details how long it takes for various items to decompose, highlighting that a plastic bag takes 20 years to break down and a styrofoam container takes up to 1,000 years to decay.
The rapid ban is likely a knee-jerk reaction to the recent horrifying case of a whale washing up on Thailand’s shores with some 80 carrier bags in its digestive system.
Given that the “ban” is in fact more of a request (with little by way of sanctions outlined at this time), many people are confused as to how the prohibitions will actually be implemented. Internet users have been quick to point out that many stores within the national parks and zoos use plastic and foam packaging, coming up with further ideas to help the environment. Suggestions include urging stores within the parks to use biodegradable materials, having more reuse disposal points, and installing water bottle refill points. Some people encourage visitors to use reusable canvas shopping bags when packing a picnic. One user is very direct, stating that everyone needs to develop more of an environmental conscience and take their trash home with them as opposed to tossing it away anywhere they please.
In general, most people express support for the idea but can see that there needs to be much more by way of enforcement and tandem schemes to make a difference.
Though there are still large steps to take, Thailand is actively trying to be more sustainable and environmentally aware. From innovative attempts to shock coral back to life to regular beach clean-ups, there are now various initiatives, big and small, that seek to make a difference.