Crossing land borders in South East Asia has been unusually stressful this trip thanks to the big bag of white powder I am carrying in my rucksack. No we are not funding our trip by an ill advised foray into drug smuggling but trying to back pack plastic-free. Which means no plastic toothpaste tubes. So we have brought a sack of home-made tooth powder with us. While carrying tightly wrapped packs of dentifrice may be innocent, it sure doesn’t look it. I dread the day I have to explain to some grim-faced custom official. The response I fear involves rubber gloves.
So why do it?
Well we are visiting wild and remote places, the kind of places you have to walk to. Places with no garbage collection service and your rubbish goes onto the village dump just out of town. A system that has been in place forever and that used to work.
But in the old days of course most trash was biodegradable, animals ate some of it, the rest would compost down, it was safe to burn and the ashes could be used as fertilizer. The system was not perfect, but people have lived like this for centuries and maintained sustainable landscapes. The introduction of plastic rubbish has changed everything. Because most plastics do not biodegrade plastic lasts for a long time possibly for ever. It cannot be eaten, does not rot or compost down and it is difficult to burn.
You can see some photos of plastic pollution in remote tourist places on our Facebook page Planet Trash
When it does eventually break up or degrade, it only breaks down into smaller pieces of plastic. It cannot be left in the landscape as before. Basically every bit of plastic rubbish has to be collected up and specially disposed of either by being buried in landfill, incinerated or recycled.
Whatever your method of plastic disposal, it requires amongst other things a decent infrastructure, some roads, machinery, power, vehicles and a lot of cash. You don’t get that the places we go. So now the ditches alongside the rice paddies are choked with plastic crisp bags, the beaches littered with plastic water bottles and plastic bags cover huge swathes of land. Many communities can only deal with their plastic waste by burning it. Evil smelling bonfires of smoldering plastic trash are now as much a part of the backpacker experience as tinkling temple bells. These filthy fires add to air pollution and global warming and worse; certain types of plastic, when burnt release release extremely toxic carcinogens.
Animals that forage amongst the rubbish for food will often accidentally eat plastic. Which is a poor diet and sometimes a fatal one. Here are a few facts;
If plastic trash is not dumped, rubbish is often thrown into rivers to be carried off down to the sea. Encyclopedia Brittanica states, “it has been estimated that 6.4 million tons of debris end up in the world’s oceans every year and that some 60 to 80 percent of that debris, or 3.8 to 5 million tons, is improperly discarded plastic litter “. In our years of travelling we have seen plastic pollution increase massively and we don’t want to add to that pile of everlasting, carcinogenic, potentially lethal trash. That is why we travel plastic-less.
DON’T Buy bottled water.You may not need to – check out this site that tells you if the water is safe to drink
If it isn’t use a Steripen to purify water. . This fantastic bit of kit works by UV light, weighs next to nothing, is tiny and purifies water in 90 seconds…. if you bought only one thing. Of course you will also need a refillable water bottle
We shop at local markets and bakeries for unpacked tasty plastic free snacks and we take our own bags to put them in – including a reusable carrier bag and produce bags. . Because so much street food comes in disposable plastic we take
- a tin cup for drinks
- a reusable tin tiffin tin for street food
- folding chop sticks to eat it with
- folding cutlery. ditto
WashbagWe don’t use plastic packed toiletries provided. Instead we use our own including;
- a solid shampoo. It cuts down on more bottles. Lush (www.lush.com ) do some. When that runs out we use bar soap – it works fine..
- I make my own sunblock & self tan.
- And of course the dodgy looking toothpowder.
- You can find the whole range of plastic free beauty products here
Travel – how we travel the world plastic free.
Links to suppliers in the posts….
- Things To Write About
One of the real joys of buying #plasticfree is sourcing the stuff in local shops. The excitement when you see milk in glass bottle in the newsagents is beyond words.
However sometime you have to buy on line. Most of the products featured have an online option to buy. Though we try to link with business we know we cannot always do this. Then we try to find a similar product on Amazon.
Amazon is a very dirty word at the moment and I thought long and hard before suggesting them. Heres why I went ahead….. No we are not entirely happy with Amazons recent history. However, we have always found their service to be good and their packaging usually compostable.
If you buy a product via this link we do get an affiliation fee for this. This is not why we do it.
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