Following a raft of recent announcements that supermarkets are introducing "bag free" days or opt-in policies for customers to request bags, finally one retail group has stood up and said no to plastic bags unless shoppers pay.

Starting Jul 3, The Mall Group, whose empire includes Siam Paragon, EmQuartier and Emporium, will no longer supply disposable plastic bags in a bid to encourage customers to regularly bring their own reusable bags. The campaign includes its chain of Gourmet Market grocery stores. 

For customers who forget or don’t bring their own bags, plastic bags are still provided but at a price. According to the Mall Group, customers who need a bag will have to pay “1 baht per plastic bag.” The group says it will donate this money towards the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Thailand. 

The campaign goes one step further than other recent bids towards plastic reduction from Thai retail groups, such as Central's “Central Love the Earth ‘Say No To Plastic Bags” campaign, which sees department stores nationwide stop automatically giving out plastic bags, and 7-Eleven's similar campaign (with money donated to charity by the convenience store each time a customer opts for a bag). 

But a non-automatic service doesn’t mean the end of convenience. BK has regularly seen shops including Villa and 7-Eleven flout their own rules regarding no plastic days and bag-on-request services.  

While a one-baht fee for plastic bags is hardly likely to act as a deterent for The Mall Group's privileged clientele, it does escalate Thailand's glacial reaction to the global plastic crisis. 

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.

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