Going Cold Turkey On Plastic Bags

2개월 전

What I love most about this, is that Thai people will HATE it and it won't work.

And therein lies the magic.

Let me take a step back. A few days ago, there was a big splashy media announcement here in Thailand that 75 major retailers would be going completely plastic bag free on 1st January, 2020. You can view that article Here. What that means is you either bring your own, carry your groceries out in your arms or your pocket, or you take their PAPER bag. I did the mental math and thought "WOW!" - January 1st is only WEEKS away. And after a bit of digging I learned that some clever brands were starting a month early to TRIAL it and tweak the message, communication, training etc. Smart.

And being just hugely curious and interested, I whizzed into the local Tesco Minimart on the way home on December 3rd - 3 days in to their trial - deliberately without my trusty eco-green and wonderfully strong, fair trade, hand-made shopping basket. I chose 3 fridge articles, and a couple of heavy things - about 8 articles in total and far too much for me to carry in my hands.

The checkout staff guy looked at me and blinked - a little uncertain, it seemed, of how to handle this. And then clumsily reached for the new, big, strong, PAPER bag.

I nearly did a back flip and squeal in store. These were almost identical to the big paper grocery bags of my teenage years in Australia!! Except back in the day, the extra energy and ink and labour etc weren't wasted by printing how environmentally responsible we all suddenly are. But I digress.

The bag. In all her glory.


It took us a while to work out the diagram printed on the back, but it seems Tesco is recycling its own cartons (no more freebies if you're moving house!) and turning them into paper bags for its own customers. Smart.


And we're reminded also, on the back of each bag, that one ton of paper bags saves 16,000 tons of wood needing to be harvested. That's quite something.


So why won't that work and why is that such a good thing??

The average, working class Thai family gets around like this.

Image credit: Bangkok Post

Arguably the biggest decider for limiting the family to 2 children is not the cost of feeding and education, but how on earth will we all get around?

The shopping bags typically hang off the handlebars. The Tesco bags have no handles. Putting the big brown paper bag in the tiny front basket in the evening? Obscures the light and is actually quite dangerous! Alternatively, you could leave on of the kids behind. Hmmmm...

And then there's this.

Thailand Hot.jpgImage Credit tripzilla.com

As soon as you leave the FREEZING cold air-conditioned store (usually set on 16C to stop the chocolate from deteriorating), the cold things SWEAT. They sweat a lot. Drink coasters were created for places like Thailand and are a functional necessity, as the condensation drips down the outside of your glass or bottle. 10 mins dripping down in a paper bag?

cold beer.jpg

How did OUR paper bag fare on the 15 minute drive home, on a cool December evening when it was only about 25C? The bag was already dangerously soggy and needed to be lifted form our air-conditioned car with extreme care to stop the bottom falling out. You get my point.

Don't even start me on paper bags and monsoon season.

Monsoon Bangkok.jpg

So why is this OBVIOUS gonna-be-a-failure so GOOD, in my eyes?

Cos Thai people are pragmatic. Wonderfully so. And incredibly creative when circumstances require.

The street markets will be flooded with entrepreneurs copying some already great water-proof carry bags on the market. There will be new backpacks and sling bags designed for motorbikes, for carrying more than your laptop. Ironically, there are dozens of waterproof laptop bags already easily available for sale here in Chiang Mai.

Cotton reusable bags are NOT very eco-friendly, and although they don't fall apart from a sweating cold bottle, they don't protect anything from the rain.

Our best suggestion here in Thailand?? NoNo Bags.

The NoNo Bags Mission is cool cos it uses leftovers, is fair trade and produces a really functional product. This is a great article from their blog listing out the pros and cons of the various materials that reusable bags are made from. What Material Makes The Best Reusable Bags?.

The shift that Tesco Lotus has bravely made will FORCE a level of creativity as Thailand grapples with its own set of variables which will limit the success of paper bags.

Basically,it will force a huge level of grumbling, thinking, adaptation and new solutions.

And Mother Earth needs that.

Me? Next time going back in with my trusty shopping basket - locally made from natural materials and cleverly has the handles long enough that it can be slung over someone's shoulder on a motorbike. 300 baht from the cane shop on Chiang Moi.


BlissednBlessed in my Changing Thai Natural World.

Originally published on my own blog, My Natural Thai LIfe. Connecting you with all things natural in Thailand.

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Yep! My friend makes those kind of whicker baskets.. they are So strong and stop your shopping getting crushed like they do In plastic. Thats the way! X


Somehow it feels SO MUCH BETTER to use a hand made basket from natural materials than a GMO cotton tote printed and treated with chemical dyes. Every decision needs thought and awareness, no?


Yes! The people making these descisions don’t understand what the option are!

Our whole state of tamil nadu went plastic free this year. Not only Are plastic bags banned, but also all single use plastics such as tea cups.. Its a huge change but amazingly india just adapted like it was no big deal.. overnight! Now the chai shops serve tea in normal cups that they wash, and there no shortage of locally made alternative real eco options for strong shoppin lg bags!


The so-called developing world has SUCH an advantage! We have almost no "convenience mindset" to undo (a wise man I respect write about that recently :) x ) and we still have people who MAKE STUFF from sustainable, natural materials, which are affordable for others to buy.

A few days ago, there was a big splashy media announcement here in Thailand that 75 major retailers would be going completely plastic bag free on 1st January, 2020.

This is awesome Artemis!

I've not bought a plastic bag in over a year ever since they started charging for them in UK supermarkets. Now I never forget to take my rucksack with me. The planet and my wallet is better off for it.

P.s I love that pic of all the Thai peeps just getting on with it in the flood. When I visited Thailand that's one thing I noticed about Thai folks, incredibly tenacious :)


It IS AWESOME! Somehow the "developing world" which missed out on so much materialism, is now more easily able to deconstruct, adapt and change.

Haha omg what an extraordinary lack of foresight! As soon as I saw it I wondered how that would survive in ths tropics!!! Love your basket!!!

But TESCO..... thanks for advertising our token for us! 😉😂😂


Haha... Tesco Lotus is HUGE and was a 'thing' long before steem, NM and a token. :) Yup - my basket has served me incredibly well and can easily hold 15kg of heavy shopping. Slings over the shoulder and is super useful.

This made me giggle! Particularly the bit about the bag having the extra blurb about how responsible they're being. Those bags remind me of the ones you see one the American programmes and films as the struggle to the car trying to balance them all, with the bottoms falling out and them upending. I guess they aren't as pragmatic over there to come up with their own solutions.

I recently came across something else that made me go hmm. It was a plastic bag made from a material that disintegrates in water. Everyone was raving about it and how great it was because it would break down so quickly and safely. I had to laugh and mention rainy days. Oddly enough the conversation fizzled out after that. I may have burst some bubbles. I'm sure it was a great idea for desert areas.

Love that the bag also has "Lotus" on it!

I hope you'll update us in the new year on all the great solutions the locals come up with.


Oh yes I look at all those disolvable plastics and laugh. What a disaster that could be getting caught in the rain! There are days I wonder about the evolution of humanity. :)

Yes, certainly planning to keep people updated on great solutions and REAL alternatives.

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Seems like a basic fix to the bag shape with a stronger handle would fix the issue of transit. Platic bags having a handle doesnt defeat paper. We have been doing similar things here in some places in the states, slightly different depending on the region your in/ It works fine. People complain and then easily adapt, since its a bag and two bags can do the same thing. If people can carry 4 or 5 bags on in the arms home (which it wasnt any more difficult with the bag switch) then some one on a motor bike can strap them on properly (which most people seem to grasp how to shop with a motor bike). The barriers you point out are easily defeated. Still should had given the locals more than a few weeks. I think we knew for like 3 to 6 months when it happened locally. If you are going to buy reusable bags dont get cotton unless you use them for years. The cotton bags arent eco friendly unless you do or they are themselves recycled. I like the heavy duty fold up bags that fit in my pocket and can handle a case of beer or piles of frozen foods. They make them with a zipper too so you dont have to worry about stuff falling out and it helps keep stuff cool/warm. Cool post.Thanks for the thoughts.

You seem to have found a good local business idea with those baskets and what might be a need for motorbike cargo accessories. Bring these issues up with grocery store if you get a chance. Maybe seasonal plastic bags or some sort of enhanced paper during monsoon season.