Central Group has vowed to stop automatically giving out plastic bags at its department stores across Thailand.

That's the key message behind the group's newly launched "Central Love the Earth ‘Say No to Plastic Bags’” campaign that will start on Jun 5, to coincide with World Environment Day.

The announcement was made on Tuesday by Nicolo Galante, chief executive of Central Retail Corporation, who said Central aims to become Thailand’s first plastic bag-free retailer by the end of 2019, cutting more than 150 million plastic bags in the process.

The campaign will cover all Central Department Stores, Zen, Robinson, Supersports, B2S, OfficeMate, CMG stores, Power Buy, Thai Watsadu, Baan & Beyond and Auto 1. Customers who say no to plastic bags when shopping at Central and Zen will be provided with paper bags and receive up to 40 “The 1 Card” points and 10 points at other participating stores. 

Meanwhile, Central Food Hall, Tops Supermarket, Tops Superstore, Tops Daily and Matsumoto Kiyoshi will still provide plastic bags to shoppers, except on Tuesdays and the fourth of every month. Eight “The 1 Card” points will be rewarded for those who bring their own tote bags, while free paper boxes will be available to provide convenience to customers.

Family Mart will also not give out plastic bags on the fourth of every month. However, three branches of the convenience store will stop giving out single-use plastic bags completely—these include ones at Mahidol University, Ministry of Health and Central Chaengwattana. Ten more branches are expected to completely forgo plastic bags this year. 

Thailand is the world’s sixth largest contributor to ocean waste, generating almost 2 million tonnes of plastic waste or 200 billion plastic bags each year. 

In June 2017, Thailand pledged at an international forum to reduce plastic use, with Thai delegates admitting that waste mismanagement was the major cause of the country’s poor record. As a result, the Thai government has included waste management in its 20-year national strategy.

National parks and many public hospitals around the country ban the use of plastic bags, while the government has teamed up with retailers to help reduce plastic bag distribution to consumers. Tesco Lotus, Villa Market, Big C, MaxValu, Jiffy, Robinson, Foodland, Makro and Home Pro among others have all pledged their commitment to the agreement, launching their own initiatives to tackle plastic waste, which are mostly “voluntary” campaigns—an effort that may not be strong enough to tackle this environmental issue.


See also: Can Thailand ever turn the tide on single-use plastic waste?