Bid to cut plastic use irks shoppers, traders

Bid to cut plastic use irks shoppers, traders

PLASTIC IS FANTASTIC: A shopper heads home with bagfuls of shopping.
PLASTIC IS FANTASTIC: A shopper heads home with bagfuls of shopping.

The government's campaign to reduce single-use plastic bags in fresh markets may not be practical, according to traders and customers at the Klong Toey fresh market, one of the biggest and busiest in Bangkok.

The market in central Bangkok is always teeming with shoppers. On an visit yesterday, many were seen clutching several plastic bags full of perishables in both hands.

Fresh markets are one of the biggest dispensers of plastic bags.

One shopper carried a bag containing fish, with meat, vegetables and fruit in other bags. Some pushed along a trolley filled with shopping in plastic bags.

Walana Tinpae, 56, a seafood seller at the market, snorted at the mention of the government's campaign, saying customers were accustomed to being given plastic bags to put their fresh fish in to carry home.

One customer typically asks for a plastic bag for the fish, another to take ice to keep the fish fresh and a third, bigger bag to hold the other two full bags.

She gives about 2,000 plastic bags a day to customers.

"Some customers say the bus driver won't let them in unless they double-bag their shopping. [The driver] might be afraid one bag might tear and mess up the bus," she said.

"I have no reason to refuse my customers' wishes. They come first."

She insisted she is fully aware of the pollution plastic bags cause. "But what do we have to replace them with?" she said.

Wassana Boonkusol, 50, a fresh vegetable vendor, noted only foreign customers bring their own shopping bags, saying the practice is admirable.

However, phasing out or reducing plastic bags is inconsistent with reality, she said.

Most people find it convenient shopping with plastic bags and they are not about to trade their convenience for an environmental cause, according to the vendor.

Wannapa Singchant, a 62 year-old dried food seller, said she tried to limit the number of bags she gives customers by squeezing the shopping in one bag if possible.

But it does not always work. For example, she cannot put strong-smelling fermented fish in with the rest of the shopping.

"Customers say they need at least two bags for that and I can't say no to them," she said.

Yesterday, the government kicked off the campaign to reduce foam and single-use plastic bags at fresh markets countrywide.

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