For those of you planning to go overland through Russia this year, here are some plastic free tips. If you are going by train you will of course be travelling on what is known as the trans Siberian. This is not, as I first thought, the name of a particular type of train like the Orient Express. It refers to a net work of railway lines traversed by a multitude of trains. These trains are of differing ages, standards and facilities which is reflected in the price of the journey. We traveled on a number of different trains but always the cheapest which means grottiest and always top bunk Koupe class.
Koupe class means there are four bunks to a cabin. They are fixed in place so you can lie on your bunk at any time. The top bunk is cheaper than the bottom because the views out are limited. And you might find yourself perched up there quite a lot of the time. In most of our trains the bottom folk wanted to stretch out most of the time which meant we were pretty much consigned to sitting on our bed or spending time in the restaurant car.
I have heard the better class of trains have showers – none of ours did. On our trains there were two toilets per coach (and this goes for first class too), which were extremely old, battered and ugly but clean enough. That’s on a not- too- picky scale. In the toilet cubicle was a small sink with no plug.
The food in the restaurant car looked and smelt appalling. It was served wherever possible using disposable plastic products, and all the condiments came in plastic sachets. Even the first class tour group got their prison slop doled out in plastic bowls. They were not best pleased. Some tickets include food which means your meals are sent out to you from the restaurant car in polystyrene boxes. From what we saw going out in those clam shells I would not recommend this option.
All drinks came in plastic bottles except beer which came in glass and juice in tetra paks. Hot water was available in unlimited quantities from the boiler at the end of each carriage. Glass cups with handles were available from the stewardess for making drinks in. They may also sell you tea bags and sachets of coffee and powdered milk. everything
The amount of waste each train produced was frightening. At certain stops they would empty the train of sackfulls of garbage and guess what? Yup all plastic. They had to have a mini tractor to tow it off down the platform.
So what can be done to make this train ride as plastic free as possible.
Plastic Free Journey
Firstly, and I would recommend this for all train users not just the plastic free kind, don’t eat in the restaurant. Thankfully the train does stop some times for as long as 45 minutes and at each stop there are opportunities for stocking up. Often, though not always, there will be an army of women waiting to sell you home cooked things ranging from the humble boiled egg to the extremely strange deep-fried, meat-filled doughnut. For these you will need some kind of moisture proof bag so come prepared with your own supply of bio bags (corn starch bags – made from vegetables they are fully compostable.
Most station do have shops but the food they sell is pretty much all plastic packed. You can buy the spreadable cheese triangles wrapped in foil and packed in cardboard boxes. Occasionally there will be unwrapped bread and there is usually a poor selection of expensive fruit.
For drinks we mainly made do with green tea made with hot water from the boiler or cold water made with cooled down hot water from the boiler.
We bought some food on board with us though not nearly enough. Next time I do this I will load up with fruit.
Plastic we used on board
Several large Coks.
To sit in the restaurant car we had to buy something. Though it would have been culturally acceptable, it was physically impossible for us to start drinking beer in the early morning, so we bought juice. It came in a plastic lined cardboard carton and was called Cok. How my fellow travellers laughed.
“Give me large Cok” they would ask smothering giggles.
“Do you want some Cok?” they would offer chortling away.
“I love Cok”, was a side splitter every time.
Yes they were boys.
When we tired of Cok (fenur fenur) we would occasionally have beer with plastic lined caps
3 tins of olives.
Two paper wrapped packets of crackers though almost certainly plastic lined paper.
One packet of green tea with plastic wrapper.
Want to find more travel related plastic free tips? Check out the travel category
- Clever Baggers (plasticisrubbish.wordpress.com)