Monday, February 27, 2012

Five Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste While Traveling in Thailand

Any first time visitor to Thailand is confronted by the ubiquitous sight of plastic waste. It is in the sea. It is in the rivers. It is on the beaches. It is along the roads. It is along the train lines. Look just around anywhere, and it is there.

Post Loy Kratong Trash on Rama IV Bridge, Pakkret
Approximately 20 million tourists visited the Land of Smiles in 2011. That's 1 tourist to every 3.5 Thai people in the country. Obviously, travelers have a huge impact on the amount of plastic waste in the country, and unfortunately much of the plastic ends up in the environment.

If you want to be a part of the solution to Thailand's plastic waste problem, here are a few suggestions:

1) Use reusable drinking bottles - Tap water in much of Thailand is drinkable when it leaves the water treatment plant. What it may encounter on the way to the tap, however, is sometimes suspect. You can treat your water with iodine or chlorine, or boil it and refill your own bottles. You can even refill you bottles at coin operated machines at gas stations and small shops.

2) Mix your own electolyte drinks - Thailand is very hot. If you're participating in strenuous activities, you will need electrolytes. Don't buy bottled pre-packaged electrolyte drinks. Instead, stop in at any drug store and buy electrolyte powder. A small package costs several baht. You can mix it with water in your reusable bottle.

3) Don't do take-out at food stalls - Eat your food at the food stall. One single bowl of noodles with soup will mean a minimum of 5 plastic bags. Other dishes will include a styrofoam box. Eating your food at the stall can reduce a huge amount of plastic waste.

4) Skip the bags and straws - It is polite for the cashier at convenience stores to load even the smallest purchase into a plastic bag and give you a straw for every drink. Just tell them you don't need it. In most cases, they think it is a nice gesture.

5) Take your own bag shopping - The simplest of all solutions is to take your own bag shopping. It takes a little forethought but can have a huge impact on the number of plastic bags you might end up by the end of a trip.

If you can take some of these steps, maybe the views along the beaches and roads will not look like the image above.

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