Save the World in Style: 3 Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Everyday Plastic Products
Thailand generated over 3.2 million tons of plastic waste back in 2016, with single-use plastics like straws, bags, bottles, utensils, and packaging contributing to around half of the number. What even more frightening is that Thailand is among the top 5 contributors to plastic pollution in the ocean alongside China, Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam (all in Southeast Asia!).
Compared to the global production number of 8 million tons of plastic waste a year, over half comes from the five countries we listed earlier. While a considerable part of this environmental issue comes from the fault in the waste management system and the ineffectiveness of the recycling methods used, the consumption behavior of the population is to blame as well.
Both the public and private sectors are starting to notice the magnitude of the issue and are coming up with more sustainable solutions such as phasing out plastic bottle cap seals and banning the use of plastic bags in national parks. “Beat Plastic Pollution: If you can’t reuse it, refuse it” was the theme for World Environmental Day 2018 set by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), recognizing plastic pollution as an imminent global concern.
Now is the time to take part in reducing the nation’s plastic waste, especially the single-use plastic products (that takes up to 450 years to decompose!), by switching over to sustainable alternatives like cloth bags, eco-friendly drinkware, and reusable straws.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are 3 plastic-free everyday products that will help you save to world in style!
Foldable Cloth Bags
There are at least 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the oceans currently and they’re taking a heavy toll on marine life worldwide. Over 300 marine animals, including turtles, whales, and dolphins, are killed by plastic pollution in Thailand each year with the cause of death comes from 60% digestion and 40% entanglement. Just by reducing the amount of plastic waste we generate by 1.5 pieces per person each day, we can step down from being one of the top 10 countries that contribute to marine plastic pollution.
Reusable bags are an effective alternative to plastic bags, prompting quite a number of brands to come up with many stylish designs for us to choose from. Foldable ones are considered the most convenient and a favorite among users, that is why Baggu, an eco-friendly bag brand from the United States, had come up with a number of affordable, practical, and well-designed items.
The best-seller “Standard Baggu” or reusable bags are made from their Ripstop nylon known for its durability. The bags can be folded as small as 5x5 inches and have up to 35 designs to choose from. The official Baggu website has listed them at only $10 a piece or about 331 THB.
There are also other types of bags that bear the same durability and design as the Standard Baggu made from different materials like leather and cotton. Baggu products aren’t hard to find in Thailand as quite some brand shops have been importing their designs. Aland is selling them for 490 THB, and Gloc is selling for 380-590 THB. If the designs brought in by the stores aren’t to your liking, you can also choose to order them online straight from the official Baggu website. Shipping fees, however, can cost up to $29 or 961 THB, so it might be best to gather your friends for a large order to make it worthwhile. But for bags that are both eco-friendly and stylish, ordering a few yourself might just already be worth it.
Drinking Cups and Water Bottles
Every time we purchase our favourite cup or bottle of drink (tea, coffee, or soda), we’re potentially making up to 5 plastic wastes all at once. They come in a form of the cup or bottle itself, the cap, the straw, and straw wrapper, and the plastic bag for all them. In turn, however, if we carry a personal reusable cup or bottle around, we can help reduce up to 5 plastic wastes all at once as well. Some establishments go as far as offering special discounts for those who bring their own containers, giving us a chance to not just save the world but save up on money as well.
YETI made one of the most stylish and favored reusable cups and bottles in the market at the moment. What makes them so popular is their durability, strength, and top-of-the-line insulation (so much that a fill of hot coffee in the morning remains hot until nighttime). YETI’s drinkware is made from 18/8 stainless steel and features double-wall vacuum insulation that promises no condensation around the outside. There are multiple designs to choose from with sizes ranging from 14-64 oz all the way up to 1 gallon (about 128 oz). The prices are 705 - 1,764 THB per piece.
Currently, there aren’t any official distributors in Thailand and ordering online through YETI’s official website comes with a monumental tax-included shipping cost (but it might be worth it if you order with many friends). Given their sleek design, build quality, and durability that will last them well over three years, this drinkware is definitely something worth investing in.
Of all the plastic waste found in the ocean, plastic straws are the second-most found item in the mix or about 10% of all the marine plastic pollution. On average, we generate at least 2 single-use plastic waste a day. This is because almost all plastic straws we receive with our beverages from coffee shops, convenience stores, and restaurants come with a layer of plastic wrapper. These single-use straws have an extremely short lifespan (but lasting consequences) since we use them for only a few hours before discarding. If we can cut down on single-use straws, we can definitely help with the issue. But for those of us who prefer to drink with a straw, switching to a more durable stainless steel, wood, or rubber straw works as well.
Green Steel is currently another eco-friendly brand from the United States that focuses on producing long-lasting alternatives to plastic products including cups, bottles, and water containers that also comes with a lifetime warranty. Their rust-resistant stainless steel straws are made with materials that are free from Polycarbonate, Phthalate, Lead, and all the toxic substances. One package consists of 4 straws, 2 curved straws made for coffee, juices, and soft drinks, 2 larger straight straws for smoothies, and 1 cleaning brush.
The stainless steel straws come in 2 sizes, medium - 2.05/2.15 cm and tall - 2.5/2.6 cm, and are sold for $14.99 or about 492 THB per pack (there’s a discounted offer for $9.99 or 328 THB at the time of writing). We’ll likely be seeing Green Steel’s products up for sale in department stores soon, but for the time being, we have another option for you to consider.
Broccoli Revolution, Bangkok’s modern Vegan restaurant and cold-pressed juice bar located in Sukhumvit 49, aim to raise awareness and help aid the fight against plastic pollution by offering plastic-free straws made from natural materials like morning glory and producing alternative straws from materials like glass, metal, and bamboo.
Metal and glass straws are 40 THB (small) and 60 THB (large), while the bamboo ones are 25 THB (small) and 30 THB (large). Cleaning brushes are 20 THB a piece and pouches are 40 THB. You can buy them in packs (small bamboo straw + cleaning brush + pouch) starting only at 85 THB. Even though you can’t get them mailed to your home, you can conveniently find them at both Broccoli Revolution branches (Sukhumvit 49 and Central Embassy).
If we all take part in cutting down on plastic usage just by 1-2 pieces per day, we can reduce the nation’s plastic waste generation up to millions of pieces per day. If we can make it a habit, these little actions that we take can have a huge impact on a national (and even global) scale. Who knows? It might not be long until we step down from being the top 5 global contributors to plastic pollution.