7-Elevens are one of the most convenient shops ever. And with more than 8,500 stores in the country, 7-Eleven is part of Thailand’s DNA.
The perfect place for an early breakfast, a late dinner, for fighting a hangover or making sure you’ll get one. 7-Elevens are great for so many things.
Like wasting tons of plastic on a daily basis.
How 7-Eleven is suffocating Thailand with plastic
Tons? With more than 10 million customers every day in Thailand, and with 7-Eleven’s obsession with supplying each one of them with bags, straws, plastic wraps, plastic spoons and plastic forks, we’re really talking about trucks, containers, pools-full of wasted plastic.
Wasted? 50 percent of the plastic produced worldwide is used just once and thrown away! So, sure you’ll be using your bags from the shop to your home/hotel, and maybe you’ll use the spoon, the straw, but then? Then it will end up in the trash and with only five percent of the plastic produced being recycled… That’s some useless waste right there!
You know what – let’s put that into numbers.
So, we have 10 million customers daily, in Thailand’s 7-Elevens. And every single one of them takes, at least, one bag. Considering the surface area of a plastic bag and the number of plastic bags dispensed by 7-Eleven daily, you could cover the surface of more than 100 soccer fields every day!!! (And more than twice the surface of Paris each year!).
Get ready to scroll down!
What about straws? The 7-Elevens in Thailand dispenses about 2 million straws every day… that’s 400km of plastic. Enough to circle the island of Koh Pha Ngan… 10 times every day! And the distance from New York to Bangkok each year!)
The major problem with plastic is its capacity to “travel”: It’s lightweight, it floats, and so it can move around pretty easily. That’s how it can end up in a turtle’s nostril:
That’s also how The Great Pacific Garbage Patch happened. This floating mass of plastic, this artificial “island” can be more than 15 million km2 , that’s twice the size of Texas!
Have a look:
Even the beaches of unpopulated islands, untouched by man, are covered with drifting plastic. And considering that it takes 500-1,000 years for a plastic bag to decompose, those beaches are not going to be clean any time soon…
Why should you care about plastic waste?
We’re travelers. That means that we’re curious about the world. Our countries are too small for our taste and we feel the need to explore beyond the borders of our own lives. We want to see the world. And that’s why we should care about it. What would be left to see if the planet was covered with plastic? Would you still enjoy trekking or spending a day at the beach if all you could see around you were wrappers and empty plastic bags?
Well, like with any action, you have to start somewhere. And given the huge role that 7-Eleven is playing in plastic pollution it seems like a perfect place to start.
All shops, at different levels, are wasting plastic. In Thailand, Europe, North America. As a customer I have learned to say “no” to plastic bags. Not all the time – I’m far from being perfect- but most of the time. I won’t be using a plastic bag if I can carry what I’m buying, and I try to bring a reusable bag with me.
But every time I go to 7-Eleven I feel like I need to fight! I need to say no to bags, and often more than once. I need to say no to straws, to plastic spoons… It’s an effort. A really tiny one, that’s true, but it’s an effort. And the effort should not come from us! The effort should come from 7-Eleven, a giant corporation that’s worth billions, with more than 55,000 shops all over the world!
How hard would it be to stop giving away plastic bags (and spoons and straws) and instead ask clients if they need one? Just a small thing like that would make a huge difference.
How hard would it be to stop unnecessary plastic wrapping. Do they really need to protect bananas with plastic? Apples?
How hard would it be to try to communicate more on the importance of being green? Sure it would cost a bit of money to advertise and educate customers, but the reputation gains would probably be far greater than the money spent.
7-Eleven should offer reusable bags, biodegradable paper bags, and effective options to recycle plastic wastes. They are a big part of the problem; they should be part of the solution.
But the problem is… 7-Eleven doesn’t care. 7-Eleven doesn’t need to advertise or do anything at all. Because they know that customers will come anyway. Where else would we go? How many other options do we have in Thailand? Being green won’t increase their sales and not being green is not affecting their reputation or their income… they have no reason –so far- to change their ways.
So if they’re not going to do anything, then it’s up to us.
What can we do about plastic waste?
Well, the first thing is obvious: we can –and should- say NO to plastic.
But sometimes just saying “no” is not enough. Sometimes you still end up with a bag, or a spoon… because you were not fast enough to say no, because you were tired… and, as I’ve mentioned, 7-Eleven clerks are not only giving plastic bags; they insist on giving plastic bags! (And sometimes they get strangely upset when you say no)
So when that happens, why not let the company know how you feel about it?
Why not use social media to try to push our message all the way to 7-Eleven’s headquarters.
That’s what we’ve decided to do: Starting from now, every time we get plastic from 7-Eleven we’ll send a tweet like this one:
We’ll use the hashtag #7Elevenlovesplastic and, of course, we’ll tag @7eleven and @7ElevenThailand
It’s not much, but like any action it could change things if many people decide to follow. It’s an important fight. It’s not even a question. It’s already too late to ask yourself if you should do something about plastic waste. Action is needed and as a customer we have the power to change things!
Let’s keep our planet clean together!
To avoid plastic waste you could also:
– Avoid buying items packaged in plastic.
– Try shopping in local markets
– Eat on site and avoid taking food home.
– Use cloth-made shopping bags.
– Make sure when you dispose of a plastic bag, that the wind will not pick it up (use closed bins)
– Support local initiatives and green businesses like Sairee Cottage Diving Eco Conservation Education.
– Wash spoons, forks, and re-use plastic products.
How do you avoid plastic waste when you shop?
What eco and green organisations do you support?
Do you have any more suggestions that could help us fight against plastic waste?
Our post went all the way to 7-Eleven headquarters!!! Here is their answer:
“Dear Mr Gaspard,
Thank you for your suggestions.
We share your concerns that plastic bags are harmful to the environment and would like to reduce them also. 7 Eleven stores have measures to train store staff and educate customers on plastic bag reduction. One of them is to ask customers at times if they need plastic bags on small purchases. We have Thai in-store sign to remind customers they do not need plastic bags on small items.
The company also joined with government agency to promote cloth bags on many occasions. We also have looked into biodegradable plastic, but the cost is 7 time higher and elasticity still not good. Plastic bags reduction is now part of the company’s strategy.
Once again, thank you for your concern. Let me assure you that 7 Eleven cares. We do train staff and educate customers on plastic bags and environment. Of course there are still rooms to improve. We’ll try harder.
Last not least, enjoy Songkran Holiday :))”
What do you think of their answer ?