Over the last few years lot of attention has been given to reducing our use of plastic, and rightly so.
Thailand‘s retailers have taken a similar approach to reducing plastic to many other countries in the world, and when shopping for groceries we are encouraged to take our own reusable bags.
Looking over the fact that this appeared to be taken seriously by retailers, for the first couple of months at least, after a few months of being responsible for disposing of our own rubbish plastic bags are a literal drop in a very polluted ocean. Even if stopping using plastic bags when shopping was a serious goal what happens now is retailers give our plastic bags but charge for them, so they become the only beneficiary as they can now charge for something that used to be free!
Of the many questions we had when we first got here one was - when does rubbish get collected?
We quickly realised we were on our own in this instance. We knew it may not be simple when we built in the fields, but we thought our village would collect. But no, not their responsibility.
What about the amphur, the local district? Maybe, sometimes, but not sure when or how often. It was definitely not something we could rely on, so it came down to us. And when I say down to us, that is the same for every house in the area and that means the vast majority of people do the same thing. Burn.
At certain times of the year Thailand’s crop burning gets a lot of attention, but an ongoing problem throughout the year that tends to get missed is household rubbish getting burned, and there is absolutely no awareness of the damage burning plastics and other household waste does to the environment. All people care about is getting rid of it.
This burning happened the first few weeks we were here, as people knew no different, and we’ve stopped that for now but we definitely have to be vigilant. It will happen again at some point.
The real issue is how we cut down on the amount of plastic we collect. Even if we take a reusable shopping bag when we shop for groceries, virtually every single thing we buy is smothered in plastic. In Bangkok when you put your rubbish in a common area and it magically disappears it doesn’t resonate quite as much. But now we see it for ourselves it’s quite frightening - and there‘s just two of us.
I suspect Thailand is playing catch-up with other countries in respect of packaging, but until things change the problems will persist.
When we buy fruit or veg in a supermarket, hand-picked items are put in a plastic bag and if they are pre-packaged, more plastic is used.
Cleaning materials, whether is for kitchen or clothes, all comes in thick plastic packaging.
And the list goes on.
Our first aim is to reduce how much plastic we buy, but we‘ve found this difficult.
Hopefully over the next few months and years when we hope to become self-sufficient for our food we can reduce how much plastic we use, but retailers and brands don’t make it easy.
For now we just have to worry about how and where we empty our bins. Organic waste is not a problem, but despite our best efforts we remain plastic people with minimal options or chances of reform.