Thailand, the world’s second-largest rice exporter, has stockpiles of about 15.5 million metric tons of rice that were built up under a rice subsidy scheme. The scheme was run by the government that was overthrown by the junta in May 2014.
The current military government has said it will attempt to sell off the rice over the next two years, but already, almost 2 million tons are said to be rotten and unfit for anything other than use as fuel. Another four and a half million tons, although unfit for human consumption, is suitable to serve as feedstock for ethanol production. Now, following an initiative of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the Industry Ministry is considering using 10,000 metric tons of the stockpiled rice to produce environmentally friendly bioplastic products, according to Industry Minister Chakramon Phasukavanich.
Entrepreneurs in the plastics industry and the Federation of Thai Industries have reportedly responded positively to the idea. As a result, the Plastics Institute of Thailand has been ordered to work out details for the initial plan before it is proposed to the Prime Minister.
Essentially, the idea is for the Commerce Ministry to buy 10,000 metric tons of the rice to test whether it can be used to produce bioplastic products for a reasonable price. These products would have a rice content of 20-25%. Target products include anything that are not food containers such as carry bags, waste bags, traffic cones, and plant pots.
The rice-based products would be marked with a special symbol designed to alert consumers to the fact that the products are made from “Environmentally-Friendly Bioplastics”. Both quality and price of the new products should be competitive, as they are intended to replace products. Made of conventional plastics.
The government also plans to ask convenience stores and supermarkets to use more bioplastic products. Depending on the response from the market, it then may decide to investigate the use of other plants, such as cassava, husk, and sugarcane, as raw materials for the production of bioplastics.
Source: bioplastics MAGAZINE, 2015-08-03.