February 17, 2009

Fighting "one bag, one product"

After reading BangkokDan's all-too-familiar experience with the "real" Thailand, and his subsequent determination to do his part, I have decided to try a new policy.

My new policy is this: I will no longer leave 7-Eleven with more than one plastic bag. Sure, I could do zero, and when feasible I will.

But consider a trip I made this morning. I bought:
  • 4 cans of Coke Zero
  • 1 loaf of bread
  • 1 microwaveable meal of ผัดกะเพรา
  • 2 hot dogs
This will come as a surprise to no one who frequents 7-Eleven (aka anyone), but they tried to give me five bags. One for the cold items, one for the microwave meal (not microwaved), one for the loaf of bread, and one each for the hot dogs. I consolidated into one bag, carrying the hot dogs in my hands, and explained simply that it's better for the environment if they hand out fewer plastic bags.

I wouldn't be surprised if 7-Eleven is the single worst offender in plastic trash-generation in Thailand. There are 5000 branches nationwide, and they always give you at least one bag, unless you specifically tell them not to. They put your bottle of water or pack of gum in a plastic bag.

If we conservatively estimate that 7-Eleven averages a transaction per minute, times 24 hours, that's 1,440 per day per location, or more than 7,000,000 (!) transactions nationwide per day. Even at only one plastic bag per transaction, we're talking 2.5+ billion plastic bags a year from 7-Eleven. And my single transaction would have received five plastic bags!

Is my math totally off, or does this all sound scarily feasible?

I always try to reuse plastic bags. But often it's only to put some other article of trash in and then throw it away. No two ways about it--their ultimate destination is always the trash bin.

So here's me doing my (admittedly minuscule) part to help out Thailand's terrible trash situation.

It would be really amazing to see 7-Eleven (or another store) show some corporate responsibility and start a campaign to reduce their own trash production. It would be an example for every other shop and street vendor who hand out plastic bags willy-nilly.

Next I need to follow Dan's example and start picking up trash in my neighborhood, too. It's simply not enough that I personally never litter.

1 comment:

  1. Ouch! I didn't realise that 7-11 gave out so many bags! I guess only paying bills and picking up 12Call cards for my phone and the odd drink is why.

    All the 7-11 are too close to Villa for me to choose them, or I imagine I'd shop more there too.

    Ok, another subject, but WHY are there so many 7-11s? Just in my little area there's four. Crazy.

    I do get a ton of bags whenever I shop, but I tend to use them. And like you, they go in the rubbish. The small ones are used for food type rubbish that'll go off if I put them in the house bin. The larger ones are for kitty litter. Both are double bagged.

    And when I go shopping at places like Central, where they are always trying to give fancy bags, I try and insist on them putting things in bags I have from my first purchase instead of having six bags flapping around me. They are not comfortable doing that, but I do try.

    Just this week I asked my favourite book seller to stop triple wrapping books sent by motorcycle taxi. They send a lot of books overseas so they put a hard protective foam around the plastic wrapped books, then paper wrapping over the lot. As it's not needed for inner BKK, I requested paper wrapping with no plastic, no foam, which they were quite happy to do.

    (btw - My recent delivery included a book you advised, the Thai-English dictionary by Domnern Sathienpong. Thanks!)

    But your post reminds me that I could do better. So much better.

    Villa Market gives away cloth bags every so often, so I could start taking those along.

    Bookstores also give away cloth bags which are far better than getting new plastic every time I get a wild hair for book buying in person.

    And all of this would only take a little more effort.