Following on from its ban on styrofoam (commonly used for tour lunch boxes) last year, the Department of National Parks has decreed that all disposable plastic, including bags, containers, cutlery and straws, is now verboten within its jurisdiction.
This means all visitors – and most importantly the tour companies that bring day trippers – to the 4 Islands, Phi Phi and Koh Hong in Krabi must bring reusable containers and utensils for lunch. The ban has generally been welcomed, as no one can deny the growing tide of plastic litter washing up on to island beaches over the past few years, nor the almost daily documented incidents of sea creatures suffocated, entangled or poisoned by ingesting plastic waste.
Since the soft launch of the new regulations in June this year, there has been a revival of tiffin carriers; and sometimes rice and curry being served family-style from large cooking pots and eaten in reusable plastic bowls with real cutlery. Most tourists seem to be happy to be participating in the collective effort to protect the environment.
The plastic ban came into force on August 12, in honour of HM Queen Sirikit, whose birthday falls on this day. Unlike the ban on smoking, these regulations apply in all 154 National Parks across the country, inland and off shore.
As Thailand’s waste management infrastructure is minimal, we would strongly advise all tourists to carry a refillable water bottle, and reusable shopping bag as a matter of course, wherever you travel in the country. Refusing straws and unnecessary plastic is another way to avoid creating more rubbish that will likely end up in the sea. With more than 2 million tonnes of plastic waste generated each year within the kingdom, the eco-tourist mantra of “leave only footprints” has never been more necessary.