Zero Waste/Plastic Free travel in South East Asia
Did you know that 5 Asian Countries dump more plastic into the ocean than the rest of the world? China, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam are causing 60% of the marine litter in the oceans.
And what can we do while traveling these countries?
Don´t close your eyes and think its not your fault if these countries cant manage their waste. Quit Plastic! Thats the only and best way to stop and reduce ocean plastic pollution.
These countries dont have a responsible waste management. Mostly all the trash get dumped somewhere because its more expensive to get it on a "legal" landfill.
On places close to the ocean and islands, waste get dumped close to the ocean so its just a question of time when it will end up in our beloved ocean.
My passion about reducing plastic consumption and to quit plastic started actually when I travelled through Thailand, Malaysia and Bali. So many single use plastic cups, water bottles, trash. Ive seen so many trashed beaches and landscapes, it broke a piece of my heart. And I will never ever again travel without a reusable cup! (My tips for a plastic reduced travel)
While researching online about zero waste/plastic free travel, I found Zero Waste Globetrotter on Instagram and she was happy to share her experiences about a zero waste travel lifestyle while living in China.
Enjoy and get inspired.
(If you have any zero waste/plastic free travel experiences let us know in the comments.)
Zero Waste Globetrotter
Living in Shanghai the last couple of years has given me the opportunity to travel a lot in South-east Asia and China itself. This part of the world is absolutely stunning - rich in nature and culture. However, it is also rich in plastic. It’s almost impossible not to encounter plastic waste on your journey - except if there is someone around 24/7 to clean up behind you.
The problem is: Plastic is cheap. Very cheap. And very convenient. Once I was getting my breakfast in Harbin (Northern China) and ordered some rolls and congee (a kind of rice soup) - it was ridiculously cheap. Later, when the congee was served however, I discovered that the small restaurant had put a plastic bag over the bowl so that it wouldn’t get dirty. Like that they wouldn’t have to do the dishes - genius! And the plastic bag? Well, that you can just easily throw away, right?
Well, no. The problem is, that there is no away. The famous saying ‘Out of sight, out of mind.’ can’t be true in this case. Because plastic doesn’t biodegrade. The fact is, that every single piece of plastic ever produced it still on this planet somewhere. Considering the amount of plastic produced every year, that is really scary. Most of this plastic waste ends up in the seas. Especially plastic bags are more often than not mistaken by sea turtles for jellyfish.
Sadly, my anecdote isn’t the exception, but the reality.
About two years ago, I discovered my passion for sustainability. A passion for making the world a better place. What started of as hobby to recycle, upcycle and refashion, turned into a lifestyle change after I got into touch with the zero waste lifestyle. As soon as I heard of it, I knew that that’s the way I want to live.
Living zero waste is basically what the name says: You try to produce as little trash possible. Even though this mainly includes plastic waste (waste that isn’t biodegradable and will outlive us), one also starts thinking about food waste and waste generated by the fast fashion society. Buying local, second hand and sustainable are key elements to this lifestyle.
But how can you combine that with traveling - where you normally generate more waste than at home? I won’t tell you that you can travel 100% zero waste - this plan will fail as soon as we check in our baggage at the airport. But there are three essentials that can minimise your generated waste by a lot!
1) Bring your own reusable water bottle. I have a big one of about 800ml that can get me through the day easily. Like this, you don’t have to buy plastic water bottles, which isn’t only good for the earth, but also for your wallet! Normally it shouldn’t be too difficult to refill the bottle: In countries where you can drink the tab water you can refill it in a bathroom and in countries where that isn’t an option, water dispensers are everywhere.
2) Bring your own lunchbox (with a good lid that isn’t leaking). Considering my anecdote from the beginning, you never know when and where you might need it! In order for stories like that not to happen to you, look around first in the restaurant. How are the others eating? Single-use bowls? Offer your own lunchbox. Drinking from plastic straws? Don’t forget to remind the waitress that you don’t want one. With single-use cutlery? Use your own! Which leads to…
3) Bring your own reusable cutlery. (And considering all above, some dish liquid while you’re at it…)
Of course there are many other fancy utensils like stainless steel straws that are also really sassy to use, but the three above really are the essentials. As you are normally not doing a lot of grocery shopping while traveling, I don’t think that an extra tote bag will be necessary, but that of course depends on the person.
(Remark from The Happy Choices: I went grocery shopping on local markets and in supermarkets for breakfast at home, so my reusable bag was a must have for me.)
One thing is the most important of all however: stay positive. Don't let traveling waste free be a burden, don’t beat yourself up over mistakes! They happen. Heck, I have had countless zero waste fails, and still do! Be open-minded and creative with the things you have. Don’t start arguing with, or worse screaming at waitresses (or others) it they have made a mistake. Positivity is the key element to make zero waste (or less waste) work and to inspire others!
I always like to imagine a sea turtle smiling at me whenever I have refused yet another piece of plastic. And while I now realise how crazy that may sound, it makes me smile too.
By Zero Waste Gobetrotter (Instagram: zero.waste.globetrotter)
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Hi my name is Jule
I am a nature and ocean lover. A passionate runner and minimalistic traveller. On this blog I share my experiences, thoughts and ideas about the "sustainable lifestyle" and how you can stick to this while traveling.
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