My latest visit to Taiwan made me really think about the Taiwanese mindset of recycling and the environment.
Taiwan is home to that cool company that made all the world cup shirts by using recycled plastic bottles. We have to recycle at McDonald’s (it’s still weird to me that Europe doesn’t do that), and old grandmas and grandpas spend their retirements recycling (I’ll never forget waiting at a light for the grandpa to push his bicycle and cart completely overstuffed with plastic bottles and cans…)
Juxtapose that, however, with everywhere you go, there doesn’t seem to be a conscience that we are over-using plastic bags. In Denmark, we had to always bring our own bag to the supermarket, and when I came back to the UK, I had to start carrying my own bag everywhere because no store will give them to you for free anymore. They now charge. I once traipsed across a parking lot with a pair of newly purchased high heels in my hands because I didn’t want to pay for a plastic bag.
In Taiwan, everywhere you go, you get a bag. They don’t even bother to wait for you to say whether or not you need a bag, they just give it to you, without a second thought. Yes, 7-11 and Poya do charge for plastic bags, but that’s as far as it goes.
At the night market, we had a pretty big plastic bag from a purchase, and every purchase after that I would hastily say ‘we don’t need a bag we have one here. Let’s save the planet’. The salesperson would look at me awkwardly and then snicker a little in half-confusion, realising what I was saying.
It’s not even the plastic bags alone- it’s the millions of drinks that Taiwanese people buy each day… think of all the styrofoam and plastic cups that are being used and discarded without almost a second thought.
Not that I was even innocent in all of this… when we went to 50-Lan, we would sometimes ask for our drinks to be ‘wrapped’ individually so that we wouldn’t have to carry the drink around the night market or whatever. It was more convenient.
This year, coming back from Taiwan, I’m struck by the sheer amount of plastic bags I’ve brought back with me… a bag for the tea, a bag for the coffee, a bag for the empty shampoo bottle, the bag for the water bottle the shampoo is in… a bag for the kitchen knife… maybe it’s not just Taiwan that needs to re-examine their plastic impact on the environment.
PS. Thanks @GwenythWR @BenGaoRen from Twitter for posting that article on Twitter that made me finally write this post.