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Politics The Bioplastics

Politics The Bioplastics Situation in Thailand Committed to Become a Regional Hub by Siraprapha R, Wantanee C*, Vichian S, and Supachai L Strategic Innovation Programme in Bioplastics Thailand’s National Innovation Agency *Programme corresponding author Since 2006 the Thai Government has declared the bioplastics industry as one of Thailand’s strategic industries for which the Government vowed to push forward and promote sustainable growth and development. Thailand’s emerging bioplastics industry has tremendous potential as the nation benefits from a number of comparative advantages. Thailand is rich in biomass resources and has abundant raw materials which can be used as feedstock for bioplastics production, in particular, cassava. In fact, Thailand is one of the world’s leading producers of cassava and sugar cane with annual production of over 30 and 80 million tons, respectively. Such plentiful biomass resources translate into higher availability hence stability of raw materials for the bioplastics industry. From the production standpoint, Thailand already has a well established plastics industry, with over 3,000 manufacturers already producing a wide range of plastic products for overseas and domestic customers. At present, Thailand is a top-three plastic exporter in ASEAN and one of the largest plastic resin producers in the world. The bioplastics sector can easily take advantage of these existing capabilities, networks and resources in order to develop and grow. Additionally, Thailand also has a strong research base to support the bioplastics industry. The country has a number of scientists and experts in research institutes, 46 bioplastics MAGAZINE [03/11] Vol. 6

Politics academia and industry who are developing various technologies and knowhow across the entire bioplastics production chain. Leveraging on the basis of existing R&D capacity, Thailand continues to build up additional qualified experts across the nation to support the bioplastics industry. In this regard, the government sector, leading by Thailand’s National Innovation Agency (NIA), has already set up special funding schemes dedicated to bioplastics R&D and innovation projects. Through active international alliances, Thai scientists and experts also work with their counterparts at renowned institutions from around the world to create innovation which serves the needs from the production sector as well as the market. NIA’s recommendations have pushed the Thai Government to accelerate the bioplastics industry. As a manifestation of the Thai Government’s commitment to set up strong foundations and facilitate continuous expansion of the bioplastics industry in Thailand, the ‘National Roadmap for the Development of the Bioplastics Industry’ was drawn up and subsequently approved by the Thai Cabinet in July 2008. The Cabinet also allocated an initial budget of 1.8 billion Baht (€ 41 million or US$ 60 million) to support the implementation of the National Roadmap, which focused on four core strategies directed to strengthen the Thai bioplastics industry with a view to become a regional hub in this field. The four core strategies are: 1) creating sufficient supply of agricultural raw materials as bioplastics feedstock; 2) developing new technologies to serve the needs of Thai bioplastics industry; 3) building new and innovative business in bioplastics; and 4) establishing a robust supportive infrastructure for the Thai bioplastics industry. Moreover, the Thai Cabinet recently approved additional supportive measures to boost investments in the bioplastics industry in Thailand. These include a public-private (30:70) co-investment in construction of pilot bioplastic resin production facilities having production capacity of 1,000-10,000 tons per year, which are aimed to be operable by 2013. In this respect, the Thai Government has pledged to grant 300 million Baht (€ 6.8 million or US$ 10 million) for the pilot plant construction (2011-2013) whereas the rest of the investment will come from the local private sector. • bioplastics MAGAZINE [03/11] Vol. 6 47

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