An article published in 2015 on the EcoWatch website named China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam as the worst plastic polluters of the world’s oceans. These five countries are responsible for 60% of the world’s plastic pollution.
As responsible parents, this should concern you. After all, your children will inherit the world. But as a resident of one of the five countries, this should alarm you. But looking around at the consumer habits of the residents of Thailand, it becomes clear how and why this has grown to be such an important issue.
Two Sides of the Problem
The problem has two causes – littering and not recycling plastic waste. Together they add up to the mess you see in the world’s oceans today.
Littering is a personal failing and a child’s education starts at home. You don’t let your kid get away with throwing their waste on the floor of your home, do you? Of course not; it is disrespectful to whomever cleans the house, possibly unhygienic and a show of disregard for your personal living space. Teach them that showing respect works outside of the house as well as inside.
Thailand is also their home, even if you are here for a short time. Starting to ingrain them with this attitude will, slowly but surely, help with the problem of littering in the streets and countryside. To start, you can pick up trash outside of the house’s immediate surroundings with your young or school-aged kids — perhaps when you go on an evening walk. Make it a counting exercise or game to see who can be the first to collect 10 pieces.
To make a larger impact, start a trash pick-up group among your school’s students and parents, or talk to the school about implementing a trash pick-up and recycling system, if they haven’t already done so. Also, encourage the cafeteria or canteen to stop using plastic straws, utensils and cups. Start a campaign to give a few baht discount on beverages for those who bring their own reusable tumblers or cups. The ideas are endless, and with a bit of time, these become regular practices that everyone does automatically.
Older children and teens can make a difference too. Get the whole family to join a larger scale clean-up effort like those organized by Trash Hero Thailand. No registration necessary, simply show up! By spending just a few hours picking up trash with a group of dedicated people, you will see the real world consequences of being careless about waste as well as understand that actions speak louder than words.
Too Much Plastic
These days, practically everything comes from stores wrapped in plastic or in a plastic bag. You bring the item home, take it out of the wrapping or bag and throw the plastic away. Children see this all the time so they accept it as the normal way to behave.
Change your habits to making an effort to recycle and reuse rather than just accepting that single-use plastic is okay. It’s not. Take a reusable tote bag to use when you go grocery shopping. Fill a reusable water bottle and bring it with you when leaving the house each day. Refuse plastic bags when buying one to two items in a convenience store (and never accept the plastic straws that come with drink purchases). And instead of plastic wrap, use a washable beeswax-coated wrap like those from Wrappini, which works great with halved fruit, loaves of bread, cheese blocks and more.
Once this becomes the new norm in your household, your kids will accept it as being the proper way to discourage the temporary use of plastic. It will be a new habit that will pay dividends for them in the future.
Change Doesn’t Come Overnight, but it can Last Forever
If enough children are raised with the awareness of the dangers of plastic pollution and grow up practicing good environmental habits, we will also start to see changes in the habits of the nation’s retailers. It won’t come overnight, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
Imagine how proud your child will feel in the future when Thailand’s name is taken off of the ‘worst polluters’ list and they know their efforts played a part in it. This is the type of positive action that encourages a young person to invest themselves in their country and play an active role in changing things for the better.