Doing this plastic free July while backpacking in S.E. Asia. I do have to apologise for the very tardy documentation. We are stuck on a fairly remote beach with very limited wifi. I know… nightmare! But we are spending the day in town so here is quick post.
Backpacking certainly makes some aspects PFJ easier. Eating for example. I dont have to worry about plastic packed food because I eat out most of the time. But those of you who know me will agree that I eat very plastic free when at home and will give me a pass on this one?
And of course travelling plastic free comes with its own challenges but we have done it before and know what to pack. You can see my plastic free pack here. Except, and I can hardly believe this, we left our water bottles at home. Actually, why am I acting so surprised? We are always leaving our water bottles places!
When Your Water Bottle Lets you Down
So when we got to Malaysia, Georgetown (the Pot Shop in the market), I bought this; a shiny stainless steel, wooden trim, in the style of Kleen Kanteen but a fraction of the price, water bottle. That came in a cardboard box. Woohoo with knobs on. Got home to find it wrapped in a plastic bag!
But we used the bag for our rubbish and not the plastic lined bin in our hotel room so I guess you could say we saved on a plastic bag? actually we never use the plastic lined bins when back-packing. Because we don’t use plastic, we don’t make that much rubbish. Any we do create we release into the wild. By which I mean we put it into a communal bin.
Train Food Traumas
As the local train was 2 hours delayed so we went for lunch, in a cafe, where everything was served on china, with real cutlery and cups. A plastic free meal was safely negotiated. Feeling confident I ordered a cold coffee. I discussed at length about how I didn’t want a straw with a very sweet girl who spoke reasonable English and was full of enthusiastic agreements. So I went ahead and ordered an icy frappe choco caramel coffee. It came in a plastic cup with domed plastic lid and straw from the takeaway stall across the road. It was very tasty though.
When it finally arrived, the train was a lovely hodge podge of carriages of differing ages and styles. Some were ugly commuter rail cars with vinyl padded seats, others old-school timber lined carriages with hard wooden seats all painted bright ginger and looking like something from the Wild West. In the interests of going plastic free we chose them.
The train showed no interest in making up for lost time rather it dawdled along. It was a long journey, a very long journey and even the intense caffeine/ sugar rush of the capo frappe choco shake eventually wore off and was replaced by a hunger pangs. There was plenty of food for sale and the sellers were happy to mount the train and bring it to you direct.
Sadly Thai vendors have taken to wrapping their food in plastic. Everything but some lurid orange chicken legs in steel bowls came plastic bagged. We didn’t fancy the chicken. In the end I bought some sticky rice wrapped and cooked in deep green banana (?) leaves. When we came to unwrap them we found they had been tightly tied with red plastic string. They were like tiny little sweets. The leaf wrappers went out of the window where they would biodegrade back into the jungly earth if they were not wolfed up by strange hairy beasts first. The string of course had to be kept to be thrown away in a bin when we eventually got off the train, to be (hopefully), taken to landfill. The whole procedure revealing just how ridiculous and unnatural plastic packaging is.
Good Plastic Bad Plastic
Other plastic includes the stickers off our new (plastic) ninja snorkelling masks. Which may seem strange, hypocritical even. But I dont shun all plastic. I think it is a fantastic material with a role to play. I think that we are misusing it and abusing it. We dont need to make plastic stickers with it for instance. And please note the plastic lighter is harvested from the beach. I didn’t buy it I was gifted it by the sea.
Had To Be
Tin cans and bottles of beer – sorry I have lost count about 20 cans of beer (plastic lined) and 4 bottles of beer (metal caps are plastic lined) I would guess. It is hard to avoid this. If you want to visit a bar in the evening with friends you have to buy a drink.
I dont mind taking my own water to the table in a restaurant ( especially now I have super classy bottle), but I draw the line at drinking from my own bottle in a bar. Even if they didnt say anything, I’m absoltely sure that would think I was smuggling in my own booze and I couldn’t stand the shame.
2 straws obviously my mimes were not too good