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This week I will take you on a little trip through South East Asia.
To be a bit more precise, we will explore Thailand a bit closer and I will share my impressions and experiences with you, mainly concerning the plastic consumption there.
On my journey through beautiful Thailand, I came across beautiful natural landscapes, I was able to meet a lot of friendly and helpful people and experience their culture and customs.
My first port of call in this case was Bangkok, where I entered Asian soil for the first time.
Bangkok, the main city of Thailand, is a big city known for its artistic shrines and a pulsating life on the streets. The Chao Phraya river is used by many boats and flows through the network of canals and also past the old town Rattanakosin with the opulent Great Palace and the temple Wat Phra Kaeo. Nearby there is the temple Wat Pho with a huge reclining Buddha statue and on the other side of the river the Wat Arun with its steep stairs and the Khmer style pointed tower.
The river Chao Phraya stretches through the whole of Bangkok and its beauty is a beautiful natural spectacle. But since a few years a lot of plastic waste has been collecting there.
“A six-kilometer cleanup operation collected 132 kilograms of waste from the Chao Phraya River in just one hour.” You can’t imagine how many tons of plastic garbage are discharged into the sea every day through the river. The plastic garbage consists mainly of used plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic bowls, Styrofoam, toothbrushes and straws… If you take a closer look, you can find basically any plastic item that comes to your mind.
Plastic production is booming!
Everything is packed in plastic, you are offered a plastic straw for every drink and if you go shopping in a local supermarket (Seveneleven) you get not only one but two plastic bags put together. Because a single plastic bag could tear and how should you bring your shopping safely home…!
It is the same, but also if you look at the food culture in Thailand or generally the Asian countries. In all of Asia there is hardly any private cooking in your own household, unlike in Europe. For many Asians, selling their food or cooked dishes is the only source of income to provide for their families. On every corner there is a trader who sells fruit, vegetables, meat and all kinds of freshly prepared dishes.
Asians love to go out to eat and buy ready-made dishes at the market which is open every day. This fact again leads to the fact that a lot of things are double and triple packed in plastic, so that the food can be transported well protected.
I would therefore like to give you an example, which in my opinion is very serious, that I had to experience first hand…
I was at the market and ordered “Sai thung”, a typical Thai rice dish. The saleswoman now routinely begins the packing process:
A polystyrene bucket for the rice, but first a plastic sheet must be inserted to prevent it from sticking to the foam. She puts a little fish sauce in a small plastic bag and a chili vinegar sauce in another. Both are cleverly closed with a rubber band, very tight and airtight, so that the bags look like inflated balloons. Another plastic bag with two compartments contains sugar and chili powder, which are naturally sealed with a rubber band. The fan with the rice is secured with a last rubber band and finally comes together with all other bags in a big plastic bag. “Another (PVC) bottle of water?” – comes of course in its own plastic bag. Didn’t take two minutes, is very practical, but the accumulated plastic waste gives me a stomach ache before I even start to eat.
Thais are hardcore users of the disposable plastic. 70 billion plastic bags alone are consumed every year. I have more or less witnessed this live.
Along with China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, Thailand is one of the five Asian countries that are responsible for more than half of the eight million tons of plastic waste that ends up in the oceans every year, according to the Ocean Conservancy organization.
Plastic waste poses a massive threat to the marine ecosystem. But there is bright light on the horizon of plastic consumption.
On January 1, 2020, Thailand will launch its anti-plastic campaign, which involves 75 department stores, convenience stores and other businesses with more than 24,500 outlets across the country. All of them want to help reduce the consumption of plastic waste and plastic bags in Thailand this year.
This is good news for the environment and nature.
There is more than enough plastic waste!
The Ocean Conservancy agrees: If we restrict ourselves to the Asian region for the time being, we can reduce up to 45% of the global plastic pollution by cleaning up beaches, the sea and nature in combination with the establishment of a recycling system, according to the study.
Plastic is a raw material, we should start to see it as such.