Paper or Plastic?
I remember back when I was a kid, there was no such thing as a plastic grocery bag. When you went to the store, your groceries got put in big paper bags. That was it. Then, in the 80s, there seemed to be this marketing campaign that said paper bags were bad. Paper bags were suddenly taboo because we were killing too many trees. The next thing we knew, we had a choice at the grocery store. This is what I refer to as the transitional phase. The transition from killing our forests to killing our oceans.
“Would you like paper or plastic?”
Suddenly, it became unpopular, politically incorrect, and environmentally evil, if you chose paper. You were seen as contributing to the decline of our forests and therefore increasing the CO2 levels on the earth. The progression went to where, eventually, paper bags all but disappeared. When you came home from Walmart, you had 35 plastic bags in a pile on the kitchen floor. Now, I’m a redneck so I always used these bags a second time as liners for the trashcans in the bathrooms. They got repurposed. But at some point, you had so many damn plastic Walmart bags underneath the kitchen sink that they wouldn’t fit. You had to start throwing them in the trash the minute you got them unloaded.
Coca-Cola Tastes Better in Returnable Glass Bottles
Back in the day, in America, we drank Coca-Cola from bottles. The bottles had a deposit on them. Some were five cents a piece. That made them valuable. You cherished those bottles rolling around on the floorboard of the car. At some point, you would return those bottles to the store and either get your deposit back, or get some more drinks at the cheaper price. There were no plastic bottles back then. In those days, Coca-Cola tasted better.
Over here in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world, the bottling plants still operate like this. Just check out this video I made recently.
Water Tasted Better Straight From the Garden Hose
When I was a kid, there was no such thing as bottled water. Who the hell would pay for water? That shit was free back then. Even if you stopped at a gas station, they had a damn water hose around the side. You could go over there and drink straight from the garden hose. Or, you could fill up your cooler with water and continue on your journey.
That water tasted damn good back then. You had to let the hose run for a second to allow the hot water in the hose to clear out. But once that cold water started flowing, you were lapping that precious liquid like a dog in a desert.
What the hell went wrong? Ok, so some hippies started bottling natural spring water and it took off. Fine. I get the concept. Water straight from a mountain spring sounds appealing. They should have put that in glass bottles and kept the price point high. But, those beginnings evolved into the world thinking that the only way we can drink water is from a plastic bottle. Damn hippies.
So Here We Are in the Year 2018
The storm clouds have gathered. Plastic bags and plastic bottles are clogging up the world’s oceans and killing marine life. Eventually, when the marine life dies, so will we. There’s so much talk about this subject but very little action. Some places have placed a tax on plastic bags to try and curb the waste, but it’s not enough. We need something drastic like they’ve done in Kenya. Plastic bags there are banned. Period. Get caught with plastic bags and you’re (technically) facing a huge fine and jail time. Hey, I’m a realist. Drugs are illegal too, but that don’t mean shit. To truly eradicate the problem, you’ve got to shut down the manufacturers. This is actually possible, because they’re openly operating in factories. Drugs are more difficult because the manufacturers are operating on the sly, in labs in the middle of a jungle. Plastic bag and plastic bottle manufacturers are listed on the stock exchange. We know who they are. It’s plausible to say that they can be shut down with the right amount of resolve.
If you’re in the plastic bottle or plastic bag manufacturing business, I’m sorry. But, it’s time you picked a different product to sell.
I Do My Part The Best I Can
Believe it or not, I’m very aware of my personal impact on the environment.
I don’t own a car. It’s kind of crazy to think that most people who own a car are driving around as the sole occupant of the gas guzzler. Personally, I walk, ride a bicycle, ride a motorbike, or take public transportation everywhere I go. It’s not a perfect model but it’s a start. I’ll never own another car. That’s pretty certain.
On a daily basis, I drink beer from either a bottle or aluminum can. For the majority of my travels, I don’t purchase drinks in plastic bottles.
I Got Checked
In a recent YouTube video, one of my viewers checked my ass in the comments. I think most people would get pissed off, but the gentleman has a valid point. The comment actually spurred this particular article. I had even written some similar comments on the subject in another blog post.
I’ll post the video and the conversation below. While the comment may sound trivial or sniveling to some, it’s really a solid argument that I agree with. Check it out and decide for yourself. If you want to skip to the scene of the crime, just click here. You’ll notice two plastic drink bottles in a plastic bag, with two straws. Shit. It’s like I got busted with a sack of weed.
Here’s the Viewer’s Comment:
One thing I find scary. Why do you take a plastic bag and 2 plastic drinking straws for the 2 bottles in the 7 eleven? These two bottles you could also have stowed in your luggage or carry in your hand. In Thailand, plastic is not recycled but stored in landfills. With the next rain, the waste then flows into the next stream and from there into the next river until everything in Bangkok flows into the sea. 80% of the plasic waste ends up in the sea! These are official estimates. If ever someone wants to give me a plastic bag I decline with thanks!
Here’s My Reply:
My friend, you’re actually preaching to the choir. I despise single-use plastic as well. Usually, I only buy cans or bottles. I certainly don’t use straws. Why? Because I’m a beer drinker. My daily routine consists of drinking Singha and Heineken, neither of which come in plastic. My water (which I mostly use for cooking because I drink beer) comes in returnable bottles that I paid a deposit on. A kid on a motorbike with a sidecar shows up, delivers full bottles, and retrieves the empties. Just like in the old days.
Not to make excuses, but I’ll tell you exactly what happened, and why I ended up with that plastic bag and two straws. First of all, I was hustling to make my train. I hit that little shop on the run and had to make a quick purchase. The nice Thai lady put the straws in there which is the norm over here. When I got to my train, it left a few minutes later. There was little time to spare.
But, the main reason I ended up with those plastic bottles, the plastic bag, and the straws was because they DO NOT allow beer on the train! Ha! If you remember in the first part of the video, I’d already been busted out for having that aluminum can of beer. So, the no-alcohol policy screwed up my personal war against plastic for the day. Next time, I will be more prepared and have a cold six-pack concealed in my backpack.
I appreciate you bringing this up, though. I agree, plastic, especially single-use plastic is indeed a threat to our oceans. Drastic action has to be taken, immediately. I do my part the best I can, I assure you.
But, let me argue against one thing. You said that in Thailand, plastic is not recycled. I don’t think that’s accurate. In Thailand, damn near everything that goes into a trash can is recycled. There are folks digging through trash cans daily, collecting anything that’s recyclable, including plastic. When the garbage truck comes around, the first thing they do is tear into the bags of trash looking for glass, aluminum, and plastic. Recyclables get placed in rice sacks that ride on top of the garbage truck, separated from the trash in the back. Recyclables in a trash can don’t make it to the landfill like they do in the West. If folks can get money for the items, they’re getting dug out of the trash.
I would not rely on those “official” estimates, my friend. Most of the stats come from Western-based NGO’s trying to justify their budgets and existence. It’s pretty hypocritical for agencies from the West to blame us folks here in Southeast Asia, China, and the Philippines for the world’s plastic problems. It’s sort of like the U.S. lecturing the world on human rights while simultaneously, the U.S. military is dropping bombs on women and children on a daily basis.
Let’s not single out certain countries. Every country with a coastline contributes directly to the plastic problem. Landlocked countries contribute via your previously-described river method. This is a world problem. There needs to be a world ban on single-use plastics. Simple.
Some folks might find this conversation comical, but I’m glad you checked me. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll make this a blog post on my website. Thanks for the comment.
I Can Do Better
In Thailand, there’s a warehouse-type store called Makro. I shop there from time to time. It’s sort of like a Sam’s Club or Costco. At Makro, they do not supply bags. It’s bring your own bag, box, or whatever to carry your things home. Since I ride a motorbike, I use an old Aviator’s Kit Bag that I’ve had since I was a Private in the U.S. Army. That thing is made from a durable canvas and has lasted for decades. It’s the perfect bag for transporting groceries on a motorbike. When I go to Makro, I know ahead of time that I need to bring my own bag.
So, why not just apply this thought process to wherever and whenever I go shopping? I’ve got plenty of bags from a backpack, to a briefcase, to that kit bag. I don’t need a floor full of plastic bags left over after a shopping trip. It just takes a mindset change. That eliminates plastic bags from my life.
Plastic bottles? I’ll treat those the same as catching the Clap. Had it many times before, but want no further part of it. Enough said. It’s easy enough to buy drinks in aluminum cans. Even if I’m in a hurry, I’ll stay firm.
I eat noodles in Thailand called Kwit-e-yow or Bamee about twice a week or so. If I get these noodles to go, it racks up a heap of plastic and trash. So, I usually eat there at the noodle stand. However, I’ve got my eye on an insulated food container by RTIC to solve the issue of take-out trash. I can just have my noodle lady put the soup in the container. I think it’s worth the $25 dollar investment to get a quality product. The RTIC will last and keep my noodles from spilling on the way home. I’ve tried this before with cheap containers and they always leaked and the concept was quickly abandoned.
Everyone Can Start With This:
Here’s an easy list to follow that will actually make a huge impact. It won’t affect your lifestyle much at all, if you think about it.
- No drinks in plastic bottles. Buy glass bottles or aluminum cans.
- No plastic bags. Bring your own bag.
- No straws. They’re just not needed.
- Dine in at a restaurant if you can. Take-out food creates a heap of trash, unnecessarily.
What Do You Think?
Hey, I’m no Greenpeace Warrior. In my opinion, Greenpeace and most tree-hugging digital activists are about as useful as the hair on my tits. I’m no bleeding-heart liberal, either. However, I am a realist. So for my conservative readers, let me put it in simple terms. Single-use plastic is fucking up the oceans. We’ve got to make some changes. Man up and get on board.
Leave me a comment or send me an email and let me know your thoughts on the subject.