This Tuesday, 3rd July, 2018 is…International Plastic Bag Free Day
Our Thailand is a beautiful country, full of beautiful places and beautiful people, but we are destroying it through our careless use of plastic bags. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see everyone carrying their own reusable bags and containers around on Tuesday and all vendors not having to give out any single use plastic bags?
Just imagine if we made a pile of plastic bags that we use every day, we could easily make a mountain that would cover the whole of Phuket one foot high. So in just one week the island would covered taller than every person who lives there.
Every day millions of plastic bags get thrown away, and the future is not good. We are going to be dealing with hundreds of millions of pounds of plastic bags clogging oceans, rivers, and the world at large. The problem has reached such proportions that what was once clean sand on the beaches of the world are now being found to be made of composites of natural substances and garbage plastic.
Every day around 40 million of us visit a street food vendor, a local market, cafe, supermarket or convenience store at least once and sometimes many times. How many plastic bags are collected at each purchase? Most vendors will separately bag your vegetables or snacks in small plastic bags and then into a carry bag to easily get it home, even if it’s going to be eaten before getting home. So, quietly count the number of plastic bags you are given each and every day. You are not alone.
We live lives of convenience and enjoy having our single use plastic bags, these containers are used on average for less than 20 minutes, then disposed of.
What happened the last time you bought a drink at a convenience store, you selected your beverage, went to the counter, they bring up the price, and as you are organizing your money they have put your drink in a plastic bag, grabbed a straw and put it in the bag as well and are ready to hand it to you. So silky smooth! We have all experienced many times, in fact just this morning, it happened to me.
Almost every retailer we visit uses these thin plastic bags. Whether we’re shopping for groceries or in Siam Paragon, you can almost guarantee that you’ll be leaving the store with a plastic bag stuffed full of your new goodies. Then, when you arrive home, you’ll quickly remove them like a kid opening presents, tossing aside the wrapping with thoughtless abandon. Have you ever stopped to consider what happens to those plastic bags? Has it ever occurred to you just how many of them we go through, individually, in a year?
They pass out of our hands so quickly, but they do not pass out of our world. Plastic bags remain in the world for anywhere from 100-500 years before finally decaying completely, and have a profound impact upon our environment as a result.
Out in the great reaches of the ocean are massive reefs made up of all sorts of plastic waste, and plastic bags play heavily among them. Such is the magnitude of the problem that these great floating islands reach hundreds of miles, like great monuments to mankind’s wastefulness, and disregard for the world upon which we live.
The plastic here is breaking down into microplastics, floating away and mixing with the seawater and reentering the food chain through the seafood that makes its way to own dinner tables and restaurants. However other plastics that haven’t broken down yet are causing greater damage to the sea life in our oceans and waterways.
Tuesday’s, International Plastic Bag Free Day, gives us an opportunity to remind ourselves, and others, that every action we take, and every bag we dispose of, effects the lives of everyone in the world for generations to come.
How can we join? It’s so easy. Just try for one day!
BYOB – Bring Your Own Bag! It’s so easy to have a backpack, or even a “NoNo Sling Bag” tucked away in your car or motorbike. Choose paper over plastic! Some stores even offer discounts or other perks for the customers that bring their own!
If you own a store yourself, why not start a program to encourage your customers to bring in their own reusable containers and stop offering plastic bags as an option. This works for cafes as well where people can bring their own cups or mugs and receive a discount on their coffee or tea.
Many stores even give you a small credit (often 1-5 baht) on your purchase for every reusable bag you bring in.
There’s also an option to tell a story about a bag free day to your fellow plastic bag free folks!
• Reusable bags rarely tear, spilling your groceries all over the floor
• Reusable bags usually hold more, so you really can get all your groceries/treasures into the house in just one or two trips.
• Reusable bags are prettier than cheap plastic.
• Consider ways to reuse the plastic bags you do take (and the ones you have stuffed under the sink):
• Line your bathroom waste basket.
• Pick up your dog’s poop (most dog owners we know already do this).
• Use as cushioning when storing or shipping things.
• Keep a few in your car to hold wet swimsuits, muddy shoes, etc.
You can find dozens more ideas by searching for “plastic bag crafts.” Bags, flower pots, pompoms and so much more, all using plastic bags!
You probably already have more plastic bags around your house than you can ever use (even for all these fun crafts), collect them and return them for recycling. Many supermarkets now have bins where you can deposit bags, and they can be from anywhere. Just clean them first.
Plastic Bag Trivia – Did you know these things about plastic bags?
• Most plastic bags are used for no more than 25 minutes.
• Depending on the kind of plastic they’re made from, they take at least 100 years to degrade. Some stick around for as many as 500 years. That means your great-great-great-great (and even a few more greats) grandchildren could come across a bag you throw away today.
• Thailand uses billions of plastic bags each year and only about 1% of these get recycled.
• Every minute the world uses 1 million plastic bags.
• The vast majority of disposable plastic bags are made of crude oil. This is a finite resource that has many more important uses.
• Even biodegradable plastic bags don’t decompose readily in landfills. Some degradable bags need UV exposure to break down, but if they’re buried in a landfill that can’t happen.
• Microplastics are tiny bits of plastics 1mm or smaller. Fish think they’re food and eat them. Then we eat the fish. Which means we’re eating plastic … Yum.
• Many plastic bags, when they finally do degrade, don’t disappear completely. Instead they turn into microplastics. Some beaches have a surprisingly large amount of microplastics mixed in with the sand. We don’t see it, but it’s there.
World CleanUp Day Day is 15th September and Thailand is participating. Join at https://www.facebook.com/events/644749182541619/