Thais innovate to cope with ban on plastic bags

The New Year ushered in a nationwide ban on major retailers handing out plastic bags, and so Thai shoppers innovated, using old cement sacks, rice sacks, paint buckets, suitcases, fishing nets, and other implements to go green and go home with their goods.

Plastic pollution is a significant environmental problem around the world. In Thailand, the public became keenly aware of the issue two years ago. At that time, a pilot whale washed up and died on a Thai beach because it had swallowed too much plastic in the oceans. Since then, the Kingdom has been taking an aggressive approach to turning the tide plastic waste and launching initiatives to promote sustainability.

Among the measures is a government ban on major retailers providing shoppers with single-use plastic bags. Although the official ban does not come into effect until next year, the government asked retailers who were ready to implement the prohibition starting this year. More than 35 major retailers have responded by pulling their plastic and offering reusable bags and totes made of biodegradable materials.

Nonetheless, some retailers were caught short. They either did not have enough substitute bags or were not ready. That left it up to shoppers to come up with their ideas and methods.

The creativity of Thais in adapting to the ban inspired one Facebook group to post photos of the imaginative means shoppers are using to transport their purchases. The page has over 400,000 followers.

The photos show Thai consumers filling up laundry baskets, wicker baskets, waste bins, and washbasins with products at convenience stores. Some used old t-shirts and bibs, while others carried saffron side bags typically used by Buddhist monks, to wrap up food and other sundries. One shopper even brought a wheelbarrow, while another used an old spittoon.

A few reverted to tradition, employing the krajadharb, two baskets balanced on a pole hanging over one shoulder. A common carrying tool in villages, in Bangkok it is rare to see anyone with them except elderly street vendors.

Photo courtesy ofยโสธร-รณรงค์การใช้ถุงผ