Who Needs Plastic Bags
Southeast Asia is drowning in plastic bags.
This is the land of carry out meals and, in some parts of the region still, twice a day ingredient shopping. But once upon a ferragamo time prepared foods purchased to go were wrapped in leaves (banana, predominantly) or at worst, newspaper and fresh fruits and vegetables were carried home in market baskets.
Today one might come away from a trip to Warorot evening market in Chiang Mai with charcoal grilled chilies, eggplant, and garlic to take home and pestle into a nam prik (dip), a couple of fiery gaeng (curries), fresh greens to eat alongside, and a slab of sticky rice. Each item, purchased from a different vendor, will be placed into its own clear plastic bag , and each of those bags slipped into another, larger one. Customers leave t ferragamo he market with their fingers dripping yellow, pink, black, red plastic bags.
(Casual observation suggests that perhaps less than 5% of the market customers eschew larger plastic bags in favor of a something they brought from home to carry purchases in.)
Most of those bags will never see a second use. If you live or have traveled here you probably seen where they can end up: alongside roads, strewn over hillsides, on beaches, blanketing land resting between crops.
I been as guilty as other consumers. Until this trip I not thought to bring along something reusable to carry foods I purchased at a wet market or the cans of Diet Coke I buy at the 7 Eleven (hey we all have our vices).
Fresh leafy greens and herbs accompany every Lao meal and pak salat, or lettuce, is the leafy green we saw most often. Several bunches strung together with a strip of bamboo or rattan (opening photo), hung from bicycle or moto handlebars, arrive home in much better shape than if they were crammed into a plastic bag.
(And how easy would it be to wash a bunch of strung up lettuce? A good dunk and a swish in a bowl of water, or a thorough rinse under the faucet of a pump, and the bunch can be hung up to air and drip dry. Ingenious.)
same minimalist packaging works for cabbage and cilantro,
mint (these dainty little bundles, photographed at a noodle stall, are tied into individual servings but large bunches are similarly strung up at markets),
a delicious tart/astringent leafy green that I know from China as zhu er gen (left), and another (right) that I not sure of.
The same goes for bamboo tips,
But ultimately in Laos, as elsewhere, the allure of plastic is difficult to resist.
Lovely photos. The plastic bag problem is also huge in Mexico City, where I live. You get bags for everything, even bananas and oranges. But sometimes I forget them, so lately I started just piling all my produce bag less, liberated, free! in my grocery tote. I wash everything when I get home and it fine.
I think I may start bringing my own plastic bags (washed and reused), or small glass containers, for spices and nuts and things like that. All the vendors here are really amenable to not using plastic, if you give them another option.
Hi Austin Oh, I say Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam could definately best Lao in the roadside rubbish department. But you looking at a much higher population density in those countries. It also down to level of development and money for public education efforts an ferragamo d even just proper trash collection/disposal.
Tracy slowly but surely. I think things will change alot over the next decade. In Taiwan you have to ask and pay for plastic bags.
Teri Y Right. The issue there I think is that the bottles/cans are sure to be recycled if the vendor holds onto them. But what about those plastic bags? Better than styrofoam or paper or plastic cups? No easy answers here.
Lesley I sure. After all the vendors have to pay for those plastic bags! Good for you for making the effort.
Eleanor wrapping veg in newspaper is a great way to ferragamo keep them fresh! Vendors at our local market in Kuala Lumpur do that as well secured with rubber bands.
Marts thanks, upon closer inspection I think you right!
It really shocking in Japan as well seeing how much packaging they use for everything is a real wake up call. If you buy 10 things at a store you will get at least 5 bags.