COVID-19 impact on household food and plastic waste generation in Bangkok

Event: The 7th 3R International Scientific Conference on Material Cycles and Waste Management (3RINCs) 11,15-19 March 2021, online
Conference Proceeding

The COVID-19 outbreak has posed significant challenges for waste management, waste recycling and the circular economy around the world. This waste is not only medical and infectious waste but also general waste such as food waste and plastic waste (UNEP, 2020). Challenges include changes in lifestyle, consumption habits, blocked supply chains, changes in material flow and waste sorting/recycling logistics, a decline in the demand for recycled waste and so on. Before this global crisis, many countries had issued a ban on some plastic products, hoping to reduce serious environmental pollution. For example, the Thai government released a "Plastic Waste Management Road Map," to phase out the use of plastic by 2030 and placed a ban on single-use plastics in January 2020. But since the pandemic began, people have been isolated in their homes and have avoided eating out at restaurants. This has resulted in a temporary surge in delivery demand and an increase in the use of plastic boxes/bags and take-out packaging plastic. According to the Thailand Environment Institute (TEI), the average amount of plastic waste went from 2,120 tons per day in 2019 to approximately 3,440 tons per day between January and April 2020, a nearly 62% increase. Furthermore, the source and stream amounts of food waste have changed due to eating habits shifting from eat-out to eat-in. In this study, Bangkok was selected as a case study to quantitatively examine the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on household food and plastic generation by examining the changes of consumers’ lifestyle and consumption behaviour.