Financial incentives ‘needed to reduce garbage’

national June 05, 2017 01:00

By Pratch Rujivanarom
The Nation

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City residents not separating waste



INCREASING amounts of garbage require the development of more incentives and collective action from all stakeholders, an academic has said amid worsening problems.

Thailand has suffered many problems related to garbage. An annual report on the garbage situation by the Pollution Control Department (PCD) shows that people generate more waste every year and keep breaking disposal records, which has led to multiple issues such as improper waste management, garbage problems in the sea and other problems.

Ahead of World Environment Day today, Thammasat University lecturer Pracha Koonnathamdee suggested that all stakeholders from ordinary people to the authorities should take action to improve garbage management system.

“Right now we don’t have a strong awareness or incentives on waste segregation and proper waste management among people and the authorities. People just throw unwanted items in the bin and authorities collect the waste and put it in a landfill somewhere, so the garbage problem gets heavier and heavier,” Pracha said.

“The easiest way for authorities tackle the garbage problem is to burn it, which causes serious environmental problems if plants are built in the wrong location.”

His remarks reflected statistics on annual waste generation in the PCD report showing 27 million tonnes of 

 garbage was generated in Thailand last year, compared to 26.85 million tonnes in 2015 and 23.93 million tonnes in 2008. 

The report also showed that people were generating more rubbish, averaging 1.14 kilograms per day in 2016.

Meanwhile, the government’s 20-year strategy for waste management referred to private investment in waste-to-energy plants. However, many waste-to-energy plants plans face strong resistance from local people such as in Sam Khok in Pathum Thani and existing waste-to-energy plants like those in Phuket and Hat Yai have had many complaints related to pollution.

Pracha said there were also differences between waste management in the urban and rural areas. 

People in the countryside tended to have better organic waste management because they composted it for fertiliser, while residents in cities tended |generate more waste because they rarely separate organic waste from other garbage.

“If we focus on garbage reduction, we should increase incentives for the people to reduce, reuse and recycle by using financial inducements, as we can see that there are no plastic or glass bottles left strewn around because these bottles can be sold for money,” he said.

Pracha said a simple model would be for the government to issue a placing a surcharge on plastic bags to cut down on their usage. He said people used plastic bags lavishly because they were free, but if the government added a bag surcharge, consumers would naturally use fewer.

A similar incentive relying on financial inducements could also apply to local authorities responsible for waste management in their area, as the government could encourage proper management by rewarding the localities with budget allocations.

PCD head Jatuporn Buruspat said the waste management policy relied on local authorities who were in charge of waste management in their areas, while the PCD acted as a regulator to reduce the garbage in the first place and ensure proper waste management.

“We have been working on a campaign to increase awareness among people to lower their waste by practising the 3Rs [reduce, reuse and recycle] and we have slowly gained more support, as the statistics show that more waste has been reused or managed well,” Jatuporn said.

“The department is considering drafting a new law to support the 3R campaign to make it more concrete. However, sustainable growth of the 3R campaign must start at home, while authorities have a duty to assist the |public and raise awareness.” He said the department planned to encourage a reduction of the use of plastic, such as seals on bottle caps, which could be banned, to cut waste and save money.

In the business sector, Tanin Buranamanit, managing director at CP All Plc, said his company had tried to support efforts to reduce waste, including a 2015 CP All campaign “Click Off” in partnership with Thammasat University, which charged Bt1 for each plastic bag sold in 7-Eleven outlets on campus. The effort reduced bag usage by 80 per cent, he said. 

“The plastic waste has been proven to be one of the reasons behind climate change, so we do our part by trying to encourage people to reduce plastic bag usage. It is not too hard for us all to work together to assure a healthy environment for our next generations.”

 

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