How 7-Eleven is suffocating Thailand with plastic!

How 7-Eleven is suffocating Thailand with plastic!

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!

ilefthome-plastic-7eleven-001

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!)

ilefthome-plastic-7eleven-002

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?

Why 7-Eleven?

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:

ilefthome-tweet-plastic

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 ?

59 Comments

  • Plastics are always a hazard on the tourist places.Its not only the responsibility of the administrative authorities but also the travellers like us to get the tourist places and the ecosensitive zones free of plastics.

  • Marc says:

    For the last 3,5 months I carry the same plastic bag with me – so if I do shopping I do not need a extra bag. If I have to do 7/11 (support the small mom and pop shops!!!) I would never take a straw for a drink – why?

    I pump my water since 1989 with a Katadyn pump (https://www.katadyn.com/us/us/314-8017764-katadyn-mini_usa) – that way I did save 1000nds of plastic bottles.
    So can you!!!

  • Maggie says:

    Wow, this is completely sickening and mind-boggling. I had no idea. In Portland, OR where I live, the city has outlawed plastic bags which is a good start; people are a lot better at remembering to bring cloth. Thanks for bringing awareness to such a huge problem!

    • I Left Home says:

      Oh wow that is so fantastic! I hope we can all follow your example in Portland and ban plastic bags slowly as well. It will definitely encourage using cloth bags and motivate people to change their habits. I think it’s mostly out of laziness that we forget or don’t want to change this plastic bag habit.
      Cheers Maggie!

  • Himanshu says:

    Man, Its really dishertening to see the Turtel Video.

    I pledge to discourage the use of Plastic. Lets do something to stop 7-11 from doing this.

    • I Left Home says:

      Isn’t that video so sad! It was difficult to watch but it really shows how dangerous a straw is when it leaves our garbage cans and finds its way into the oceans…
      I agree! Let’s keep up this conversation about plastic waste and hopefully our voices together will be loud enough for these corporations to listen!
      #7elevenlovesplastic #stopplasticwaste #gogreen

  • Gillian storey says:

    Well done for doing this! When a group of students and teachers from bangkok international schools met 7-11 bosses a few years ago to ask them to reduce plastic they just laughed when we suggested various ways saying it couldnt be done in thailand then tried to make excuses like their staff or their customers would rebel…. and then became unobtainable for more communication on it. You re absolutely right they have no incentive to do anything and so they dont bother . And we need to make them change :-)!

    • I Left Home says:

      Wow that is so upsetting to hear! I can’t imagine how disheartening it was to witness such an un-empathetic reaction. It’s a very real and very sad truth that no one will be interested in adopting greener habits until they see a benefit for themselves or their business.
      The problem is they will benefit… in the future when the effects of our irresponsible actions have caught up to us. How can we show them that being green now will save us all in the future?
      All we can do is change our own habits, encourage others to do the same, and keep spreading the word until we are heard!
      Keep up your great work, all the best to you!

  • Louis says:

    Wow, the video of the sea turtle is heart breaking. It’s good to be aware and educated.

    • I Left Home says:

      Yes it’s so sad isn’t it? No matter how hard it is to watch, it really makes the point. The plastic we use ends up in the sea… and sometimes even inside an animal :(
      We must keep talking about this no matter how sad! Thanks Louis!

  • Michael says:

    Great piece. I emailed corporate 7-11 hq recently about this problem (specifically in Thailand). No response yet. The hashtag is a great idea. For those without social media accounts, here’s a link to the 7-11 corporate complaint form and 7-11 Thailand’s general customer feedback page. Thanks for the article.

    Corporate: http://survey.medallia.com/?711-gr

    Thai: http://www.7eleven.co.th/contact.php

    • I Left Home says:

      Oh fantastic, thanks for the links!
      I hope you get some progress soon and hear back from the 7-11 HQ. I’d be curious to see what they answer. Maybe if we keep sending emails and if a bunch of us are able to use our social media to address this problem they will finally answer for their actions… they have to answer sooner or later! Right?

  • Julie says:

    In Britain we are now charged 5 pence for each plastic bag. There was a lot of opposition against this when our government gave this directive to all shops, there is a couple of exemptions to this, one being if you are buying or picking up prescribed medications – our chemist uses paper bags for this purpose. The use of non biodegradable plastics is a world wide problem. Of course, we’ve become used to the 5p charge now, as people do, and we’ve probably realised that it was stupid to make a stand against this when there are so many other issues that we can get irate about. Every household in this country has a recycle bin and for items that are too big we have massive recycling centres that will take anything in for free. Pressure on the major retailers and re-education of the people is the way to go.

    • I Left Home says:

      Yes agreed, the more we talk to the big guys – and the more of us doing so – they’ll have to listen eventually! Being in Thailand, I have realised how much I took for granted the idea of having garbage cans and recycling bins everywhere on the streets and in major malls and stores. Here it’s so difficult to find even one little bin to throw your trash away! Bangkok has become full of litter, and if you look closely – it’s mostly 7-11 items! Insane! I think we need to follow in your footsteps and have recycling and garbage bins placed everywhere, and have homes and restaurants use recycling and compost too.
      Thanks for your input Julie!

  • Sam Schneider says:

    Mai ow thung…three simple words that can make a difference. My ow going, for a more phonetic version.
    “Not want bag.”
    I’ve spent countless hours picking up garbage on Pha ngan ( well, before the resorts caught on and got their staff to do it), the crap that washes up during a storm is mind-boggling…
    Great idea guys…

    • I Left Home says:

      Mai ow thung!!
      Thank you! That is VERY handy! Yes the islands suffer when storms wash trash onto their beaches. It’s a problem here and everywhere! I remember recently diving off Lombok in Indonesia after a rain storm and the water had a layer of trash and grease – runoff from the mainland. It was so upsetting!
      Thanks for doing your part in keeping the beautiful beaches clean! Cheers Sam!

  • Great post – can’t believe how much plastic can be wasted in just a single day. Here in the UK you have to pay an extra 5p for a plastic bag – not much, but it’s amazing how much it has worked in cutting down the amount of bags wasted.

    • I Left Home says:

      Thanks!
      Yes it’s incredible how such a small thing like charging a small amount will motivate costumers to think twice about using plastic bags. Not everywhere does that yet unfortunately, and we still have along way to go until this issue is really solved. One step at a time I guess! :)

  • Silvia says:

    Always happy to read this type of article! I feel it is definitely our duty as travellers to raise our voice against these issues – and even though I haven’t been to Thailand, the amount of plastic that I see wasted in bags and the like, every day across different countries is just beyond ridiculous. Thanks for this!

    • I Left Home says:

      Thank you Silvia!
      Yes this issue is everywhere, and I can’t tell you how many times I went to visit a place only to be disappointed or saddened by the amount of garbage that covered the area. We recently visited the Angkor complex in Cambodia, and we spent some time picking up and cleaning after a group of tourists who came through. They left their plastic wrappers, straws, and bottles laying around this UNESCO heritage – ancient architectural – site and I just stood there baffled watching it happen.
      I say we model for the rest of the travellers out there, and encourage each other to adopt green habits! :) #greentravelers

  • Bernard Tan says:

    I totally agree that we should be environmental friendly to maintain and to keep the world in its shape. China has started charging the use of plastic bags. Thanks for sharing this post.

    • I Left Home says:

      That is great to hear! I think slowly but surely countries are starting to charge for plastic bags. We have the same policy in Canada. I think it does work to some extent, but I don’t think it’s the final solution. It’s a great start though and I am excited to read how many countries have started to do the same. In France they just started to ban plastic bags altogether!
      Thanks Bernard!

  • Andrew says:

    Correction, I read in an interview some years ago with the 7 Eleven Marketing manager that they had an aggressive policy to saturate and dominate the convenience store market with 25,000 stores nationwide. There are definitely more than 8,500 stores.

    This is a great campaign, hopefully Thais get behind it, we should be pressuring 7-Eleven to introduce, at the very least, one simply policy: ‘to make all their counter staff as the simple question ‘do you really need a bag?’.

    • I Left Home says:

      Yes absolutely! That small request “do you need a bag” would actually make a huge difference! I think it allows people to stop and think and make a proper decision about if they really need a plastic bag or not, rather than having no choice.
      If costumers are given a choice, and feel in control about their decision about taking a bag or not I think many will in fact say no. Whereas now they quickly throw your items in a bag and many of us will more likely be too lazy to fight with the cashier and say “no thank you”.

      Yes I can imagine how the 7/11will take over Thailand, there is already one in almost every corner here in Bangkok and other places in Thailand are not that much different!
      We looked up the number of 7/11 on the Wikipedia site which was updated last in 2013. So I don’t think it is 25,000 stores just yet! But 7/11 stores are still growing for sure!

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7-Eleven

  • Chris says:

    I don’t agree, I’ve lived in Thailand 7 years, about half the time small purchases they ask me if i want a bag, what if i buy several bottles i need a bag! The bags are useful, i use them for trash bags saves me buying them. Your comments saying that 7/11 insists that you have a plastic bag, that’s totally untrue, they may or may not put it in a bag, more often than not they actually ask me or i tell them no. Ultimately you have a choice.
    Personally I think the problem at 7/11 is the staff serving queue jumpers, this is by far the most annoying part of any 7/11 experience.

    • I Left Home says:

      Yes, queue jumpers are really annoying, we’ve experienced that on a number of occasions too.
      We currently live in Thailand and by our experience the 7/11s have become quite persistent with packing our items in plastic bags. It seems like they have been told by upper management that there is a system they must follow: pack items in bags, give this straw for that drink and this other straw for this drink, do not mix food items with toiletry items and bag washing items separately as well… etc.
      I actually got yelled at once by a clerk when I asked her to just bag all my items in one plastic bag – yes that day I did accept to use a plastic bag – as you mentioned as well, we reuse plastic bags by using them as garbage bags too.
      But normally when we don’t need any more garbage bags we use cloth bags. The 7/11 clerks near our apartment now know we prefer bagging our items in our cloth bag so she has started to ask or simply allow me to pack my own things. But normally our experience was they bag items without asking you and even bag one item in a plastic bag and then another in a different plastic bag – which I find really wasteful and unnecessary!
      Yes, we do have a choice – the choice to say “no” to plastic. But the reality is not everyone exercises that choice and rather say nothing and let clerks pack their items in too many plastic bags than saying something about it. Why that is I am not sure… is it laziness? Is it because we rather not speak and communicate to others if it is unnecessary or too much energy on our part? Who knows.
      I think the best thing is to keep up your own green habits and encourage others around us to do the same. We can’t force others to change their habits, but we can continue to model and do the right thing ourselves.

  • Colby says:

    Wow! Very informative post. I had no idea of the numbers. This definitely will make me more conscious of my choices.

  • Meegan says:

    Awesome! I’m in. I’m going to tweet even though I don’t get plastic from 7-11!!

    To prevent polystyrene use also, I bought a tiffin as soon as I hit Thailand and all my takeaway dinners are packed in that. I’ve not had dinner in a polystyrene container since I’ve been here (3 months of having takeaway every day). I also use a Steripen so can proudly say I’ve bought bottled water three times. We also have Trash Hero water bottles on Koh Lanta and so u can easily get free water refills for your reusable bottle if u don’t have a Steripen.

    • I Left Home says:

      That’s fantastic Meegan! Yes you are right plastic isn’t the only issue, thank you for reminding us that polystyrene is very harmful and just as abundantly wasted as plastic!

      Wow you are inspiring – all travellers should be as prepared as you! Koh Lanta sounds like they have the right idea with refilling water bottles, the rest of Thailand needs to follow their lead!

      Cheers!

  • What a great post, Gaspard! It truly is sickening how much waste we produce and consume all over the world. What I liked best about this post was the fact that you gave some practical tips to reduce personal plastic consumption WHEREVER you go and the visuals you included impacted me to take thought in how I could make a movement for change here in Bolivia. When I lived in Hawaii for two years this was an extremely important topic that I felt like mattered to the general population. It was there own backyard that was being polluted and contaminated. As a traveler and expat, I have noticed people who are living away from their “permanent home” are much less likely to be engaged with these issues. Thanks for sharing, it would be great to collaborate on a piece in the future!

    • I Left Home says:

      Hi Jessica! Thank you very much for your reply. Yes, there seems to be this loss of responsibility that can creep up on us when travelling, but we need to remind ourselves that wherever we travel to we need to be respectful and mindful of the environment just as much as if we were in our own backyard!
      We would love to collaborate with you! Please feel free to message us and we can talk more!
      Looking forward to speaking to you!

  • Today, I saw a picture of two sperm whales who have died on the beach near Germany because of having swollen way too much plastic. What an abhorrent photo was that! I always try to say no (I am not perfect either) to plastic and usually I carry my own bags (leather, paper, etc.) with me when I go to supermarkets.

    I am surprised that 7-Eleven, which is a Japanese brand, is not that concerned with the environment.

    Your post is excellent! Thanks for raising the awareness!

    • I Left Home says:

      Yes it is quite surprising that they aren’t on top of things yet! Wow that photo you saw must have been so heartbreaking. It is those kinds of things that really show how dangerous that waste is. Plastic will end up floating in the sea and harming these innocent animals!!!
      Nobody is perfect, but having the right intentions and keeping up the good habits is what counts. Keep up your great work! We are all in this together!

  • Alex says:

    This is such a widespread problem and I believe each one of us can make a difference just by making better choices in our everyday lives – limit or eliminate the use of plastic bottles, plastic bags, drinking straws, plastic cups etc.

  • Chris says:

    This is a good article, and completely true, but also please keep in mind it’s not just 7-11 (as you mentioned), so targeting one company isn’t going to work.

    What they recently did in the UK is force all stores to charge 5p ($0.07) for a plastic bag, that way it’s a universal charge and no one store gets singled out. If they did that, people would start to get the idea.

    • I Left Home says:

      Yes it is indeed not only 7/11. Here in Thailand 7/11 is very influential and the biggest store where almost everyone will go on a daily basis. We decided to target them as a beginning for that reason.
      A universal charge for plastic bags would be a great start here too. Hopefully something like that will happen soon. One can only hope!

  • 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 :))

    • I Left Home says:

      Hello,
      Thank you for replying to our article on this very important environmental issue. For our readers to know, we have included your reply within the article itself.
      We understand that it takes time for changes to occur within a corporation, however from our experience with store staff in several 7-eleven stores it does not seem as if these actions have been effective or have been taken into consideration.
      Many other companies around the world have shown improvement (if ever small) to take steps toward being more environmental aware. We hope to see your stores in Thailand do the same soon.
      Best,
      Kristina and Gaspard from I Left Home

    • Jeremy Colson says:

      Dear 7-Eleven
      You claim that you train your staff on plastic bags and the environment; but in my experience your staff NEVER ask customers whether or not they want a plastic bag. Could we persuade you to review your training program to make it more effective, and let us have details of what you are actually doing.
      Many thanks.

  • Kirk Gillock says:

    Great article about an important problem. Will definitely spread the word.

    I have been doing trash campaigns in Thailand for 10 years. Picking up trash around Thailand, the Mekong River, and going to schools to encourage students to say No to plastic bags. Currently building a large plastic bottle boat in Prachuap, which will be sailed around the Gulf encouraging people to “Think Before You Throw” and to reduce plastic bag usage.

    https://www.facebook.com/PlasticBottleBoat

    Have done a lot of research on this topic and your article is right on target. Plastic bag reduction is the key and getting 7-11 headquarters to do something would help a lot. Plastic bags are 53% of all the trash found on the Thai beaches (straws 1.5% and plastic spoons 6.5%). We have spoken to the local owners of 7-11s and requested they reduce the giving of plastic bags by 50% this year. They said that 7-11 Thailand has their own campaign called “Kid Teung” which means “think about bags”. They also have videos on their cash registers that encourage saying No to bags. So, in 7-11s mind, they feel as though they are already doing enough. The problem is, as you said, bags are given by the 7-11 employee, agressively, and Thais typically do not want to say No because it will make the other person lose face. Getting 7-11 to make a nationwide change to charge for bags will fix this situation, immediately. Until that happens, we must continue to encourage change locally by speaking with the owners of 7-11s, students, teachers, government officials, and getting them involved with trash clean up activities. If only foreigners are complaining about 7-11 and plastic bags, they will not listen. They don’t care what foreigners think. They care about profits and we are only 2% of 7-11s customer base. They will only listen when Thais start to complain. If we want to get 7-11s attention we need Thais to post articles like yours (in Thai) and tweet about it and post about it all over facebook. Then they will listen. But if it is just a lot of foreigners complaining they will think it is our problem, not theirs. We need to get Thais involved and talking about this problem.

    Thank you for bringing more attention to this problem and focusing on 7-11. If they make changes to help the environment, others will follow.

    Happy Thai New Year.

    • I Left Home says:

      Hello Kirk,
      Thank you for such an informative and supportive reply. We agree, it seems that in general the 7/11s believe they are doing enough to address this urgent situation. What they do not address is exactly what you’ve mentioned so well – the aggressive manner in which staff members pack and give bags etc…
      It is unfortunate that if only foreigners address the issue they will not listen, but at the same time it is very important to bring everyone together to support the cause and continue to spread the positive messages and events such as beach clean ups.
      Yes – our next step is to find how we can write about this issue in Thai, spread the message to all! The more we push the more chance we have of changing things!
      All the best, and keep up your great work.
      Kristina and Gaspard

  • Check out the app we built to help with this. We were tired of plastic bottles and wanted it to be easy to find a clean water source where we could refill water bottles. The Refill App helps us reduce our impact. It’s free so please help by using reusable water bottles in addition to reusable shopping bags.

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/water-refill/id544621740?mt=8

  • Awesome article Gaspard! Happy to see it got so many shares. That’s a few thousand more souls triggered to proactively act against trash.

    I recommend everyone to travel with a: refillable waterbottle, or better: a filtered waterbottle so you can just get water from the tab, reusable cutlery, straw, cup and bag. Show these to the local vendor and locals friends you make. Perhaps it may trigger him/her to make a change in dealing with plastic. Don’t do take-away. And just avoid supermarkets like 7 eleven. Instead go to the local market. The food there has so much more nutrition, is unpacked, it’s more fun and the locals can use your support. Ok, it’s not always as practical. But laziness is not an option anymore. We produced more plastic in the last 10 years than since the existence of it. The worse part, it never ever disappears! It breaks down into pieces we cannot see anymore but it never disappears. It drains to the ocean, attracts heaps of metals and toxics, the fish eat it. Who still eats the fish? I’ve been taking watersamples across the ocean and all of them contained tiny parcels of plastic.

    Nice that 7-eleven answered. It’s not an answer to settle for though. The only way to tackle this problem is to eliminate. We have the invention and possibility to do that. There biodegrable plastics out there, bottles made from seaweed, and even edible cutlery. I’m curious to see the follow up. Since it takes stores like this too long to ban the bag, we got to proactively act as customers.

    I recently listed a bunch of easy actions we can all take as travellers to be part of the solution and not the problem. It may give you and others some more ideas on WHAT we can do:
    http://destinationxploration.com/travelling-70-responsible-actions-tips-you-can-take-for-the-planet/

    Collectively we can tackle this!

    • I Left Home says:

      Hello Suzanne,

      Fantastic thank you so much for such a productive and supportive reply. We agree, travelling prepared with reusable cutlery and water bottles is so important – especially today as you’ve mentioned we have produced and wasted so much plastic this past decade. It is such a scary thought that it never really disappears, and this means that it can be in our systems too! We have the power as costumers to decide where to shop, and demand no bags, straws, etc, when we purchase at a place like 7/11. We need to stay firm and, yes as you’ve said, model and share our behaviours with others as we travel.
      What a fantastic article thank you for sharing. Your tips are really helpful!
      Keep up your great work!
      Kristina and Gaspard

  • John says:

    Boo Hoo blame bad the corporation for this. How about training the dumb-asses working behind the cash register instead?
    If someone buys a pack of gum, they don’t need a bag. If you buy one or two items, ASK!
    “Would you like a bag Sir/Ma’am?” Generally people will say no.

    Another thing, who throws plastic bags and trash on the ground? It’s mostly Thais; I lived there for almost 6 years and rarely did I see tourists littering. Stop blaming everyone else for your problems and teach your own people to be more responsible.

    • I Left Home says:

      Hi John,
      I am sorry to hear that you have certain views concerning Thai people. In fact, as a foreigner living in Thailand for a time now, I don’t believe that it is one population who is more at fault than another. Many travelers come through a country and leave certain responsibilities behind – such as being respectful and not littering, and being eco-conscious.
      This article is in no way targeting one person over another, it is simply stating that Thailand, like many other countries, should take some further steps toward making more eco-friendly choices. A large corporation like 7-11 is very influential, as there are many stores country-wide and almost everyone is a customer there. As a customer myself, I see how customers as well as cashiers are not being responsible with plastic waste. Mostly, those who work at 7-11 are trained to bag certain items separately therefore using many plastic bags for one customers’ purchase. Who trains them…
      Overall, this article uses 7-11 as an example because of the enormity of the corporation in Thailand. Needles to say, the plastic waste issue is seen in all businesses, all over Thailand and all over the world.
      Let’s not start a blame game – pointing fingers and claiming one person isn’t at fault, yet another is, is not helpful in solving the problem and advocating for less plastic waste and working toward a more responsible habit concerning eco-friendly living.
      Thank you for reading,
      I Left Home

  • Izzy says:

    Thank you for bringing to attention a serious issue in Thailand that most people wouldn’t even take a second to think about. When I was there for two months, it would kill me to see how they would give me two plastic bags for one item. I ended up bringing a reusable tote with me just so I wouldn’t have to argue with them about giving me plastic. I wish that some countries would put more effort in reducing their carbon footprint… especially if the solution is as easy as limiting plastic bag use to minimize impact.

    • I Left Home says:

      Hi Izzy,
      Yes using tote bags is the way forward, and encouraging others to do the same is one great way we can help. It’s so discouraging to see how the clerks are so insistent on giving you plastic bags and packing one item per bag!
      As travelers I think we are the best advocates for spreading the word and being positive role models for eco-friendly habits and being green!
      All the best :)

  • Mike says:

    The reaction of 7/11 is absolutely half-hearted and ridiculous.
    Just do go to europe and you will see that many big chains of shops do not give out any plastic bags to customers already since years.
    People will have to buy a paper bag if they have forgotten to bring their own bag (Migros and Coop Switzerland for example).
    Yes, people may think it’s not fancy. But wellbeing and quality of life is not about fanciness. This is definitely something that the majority of the Thai population still needs to learn and will learn.
    All starts with the awareness of the individual.

    • I Left Home says:

      Agreed! The reply from 7/11 did not seem very concerned or sincere. It just goes to show that profit is more important. It is sad to see that not every country is so forward thinking and environmentally conscious as the stores in Switzerland you’ve mentioned.
      Awareness is key, and the hope is that slowly but surely collectively we can spread the word and in the mean time be good models for green habits!
      Thank you for your comment, Mike!

  • Jeremy Colson says:

    Gaspard: Congratulations on your effort to reduce plastic bag consumption at 7-Eleven outlets ( #7Elevenlovesplastic ). Do please keep up the pressure on the company. Their reply to your letter was not satisfactory. Hope you don’t mind me asking, but did you reply to their reply?

  • Philippe says:

    Great post! Fully agree, and usually I enjoy telling them proudly that I don’t need a bag. :-)) They never yelled at me, and I believe to remember that once or twice I even heard a thank you. But that probably was in another store in Thailand, not 7eleven.
    One more thing that upsets me when entering a 7 eleven store: they are constantly cooled down to ridiculous cold temperatures. You feel like in a freezer in there! There’s so much energy wasted and raising the temp. by two degrees or so wouldn’t hurt anything and save so much (also their money!, which by the way applies to bags too, although they’re cheap, but the quantity makes it).

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