The plastic problem

The plastic problem

Last week I was at a shopping centre, where I had a quick lunch at the food court. After enjoying the meal, I had to dump two plastic food bags for the sticky rice and grilled chicken skewers, and a single-use plastic bag that carried them.

Seeing the rubbish, I should have refused the single-use plastic bag and taken the two skewers without the bag. The only waste would then be the small plastic food bag for the sticky rice.

At the least, the rubbish bin would have two fewer pieces of plastic discarded by one person.

A collective effort is emphasised in Plastic Free July -- a campaign that reinforces how we can take action against plastic pollution, which has become a global crisis, particularly when plastic waste leaks into the marine environment.

Since 2011, Plastic Free July has been enlisting people to reduce plastic waste.

The campaign was initiated in Perth, Australia, by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, who one day visited a recycling facility and saw the mountain of household waste. Back home after dinner, she went out to put the recyclable waste into the bin and remembered what she had seen earlier that day.

Although it was a good thing to sort the rubbish for recycling, it wasn't enough to save the planet. The next day, she initiated the plastic-free month and asked her colleagues to join in.

From a handful of participants, millions around the world are now involved in the environmental movement driven by the independent, non-profit charitable Plastic Free Foundation founded by Prince-Ruiz in 2017 to grow the campaign.

As plastic is everywhere, she noted that we will never be able to recycle our way out of the pressing problem. What really needs to be done is to reduce the use of plastic at the source through taking action and changing habits in our daily lives.

The Plastic Free July website provides tips on how to do it at home, work, school and events. In addition, it shares what people, communities, businesses and local governments have done to address the plastic problem, to inspire and empower others to do the same.

Bringing your own coffee cup, water bottles and reusable shopping bags, refusing plastic straws, swapping liquid soap to bar soap, avoiding disposable products and choosing low- or no-waste options are some of the actions that can make a difference.

Thailand actually has a roadmap on plastic waste management from 2018-2030. The first target is to reduce and replace some single-use plastic by using environmentally friendly products; the second objective is to recycle 100% of targeted plastic waste by applying the Circular Economy Principle.

The goal in 2022 is to stop using plastic bags (less than 36 microns in thickness), plastic cups (less than 100 microns in thickness), plastic straws, and foam food containers.

One of my anti-plastic approaches is to use stainless steel food carriers or pinto, when buying kub khao like curries and other dishes eaten with rice.

Back in the 1970s, my family had a pinto of four dishes delivered to the house every day. Today, we go out to buy food that is generally put into single-use plastic bags.

On one occasion I took a pinto to an eatery, where the cook failed me, not because of his Thai cuisine but by putting the takeaway into a plastic bag tied with a rubber band, and placing that in the steel food container.

In another instance at another eatery, the three-tier pinto was put into a large single-use plastic bag when I came to pick up the order. I was quite disappointed that the staff didn't understand my intention to use the pinto to reduce plastic waste.

Besides the plastic bag, we can refuse other single-use plastic products, such as straws, cups, cutlery and takeaway containers, while businesses in the food service industry can provide eco-friendly alternatives to help tackle the environmental crisis.

Everyone has to get on board, and when lots of people come together and make small changes at once, this will make a big difference. When that becomes an everyday habit, the impact will sustain beyond the month of July.

Kanokporn Chanasongkram is a feature writer for Life section of the Bangkok Post.

Kanokporn Chanasongkram

Feature writer

Kanokporn Chanasongkram is a feature writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

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