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Life without plastic in Thailand

I was a soldier stationed in Bangkok, Thailand back in the early 1970's. Not always having a bunch of money, I used to eat food from the local street vendors. Most of my meals were served wrapped in either a banana leaf or yesterday's newspaper. Some meals were even served off of unclassified military paperwork that was recovered from the rubbish. Nowadays, everywhere in Thailand the vast majority of street vendors serve food and drink in plastic bags. McDonalds has nothing on this fast food experience.

Whatever you order, be it a rice or noodle dish, is scooped up into a plastic bag and then sealed with a rubber band. This also includes soups and drinks. Smaller bags of sauces and spices are also provided. You can even get fresh sliced fruit to go in a small bag with a skewer to stab each sweet morsel. Shopping on the streets, markets, and malls will also expose you to bags and bags of plastic.

It doesn’t matter what the size of the item, it will go in a plastic bag. I have had numerous occasions where I acquired a large plastic bag to hold a variety of articles and each successive purchase resulted in a small plastic bag being put into the larger. Despite my objections that the smaller plastic bag was not required, I was turned away with a confused look and a smile. Needles to say, after a day or two in Thailand, you tend to acquire a pile of plastic bags. I do manage to use a couple of them for dirty laundry or to keep items separated, but most of the plastic goes straight into the trash. I really don’t know what the Thai people would do today without plastic bags. If the tree-hugging environmentalists ever came to Thailand, they wouldn’t know what to do. Where would they put their sticky rice and beef jerky? How would vendors sell coke to go? How would the bootleg software and DVDs be distributed? How would I get my bowl of Thai soup home? Would they be able to revert back to banana leaves and yesterday's newspapers? I don’t think that the Thai people could live without plastic bags. And any attempt o stop the usage would result in disastrous results.


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