Learning to travel without single use plastic

25 November 2013
I am going to start this post with a little anecdote to show how I didn't think far enough ahead when it came to travelling in Myanmar without using any single use plastic.

I had planned to not buy any plastic water bottles on the trip. My reusable drinks bottles were ready, sitting next to my beat up backpack. The day I was due to set off I found myself in Paddy Pallin purchasing an item for my mum (who was my awesome travel buddy and was super patient with the whole no plastic thing). 

As I stood in line getting ready to pay, I started to think about dinner. This thought then that led to plane food and all plastic cutlery that is given to you...wrapped in plastic. I had a flight to Kuala Lumpur followed by a connection to Yangon. That would be two sets of cutlery. Plus I had internal flights. That was a lot of plastic to consume. I only had metal cutlery from home, which I knew any airline would not allow in my carry on. As I looked at the selection of metal and plastic travel cutlery at Paddy Pallin, a wave of guilt flooded over me. I either had the option of buying something here or eat with my hands. 

I hurriedly bought a plastic contraption that was a spoon/fork/knife combo. Yep it was plastic and went against the aim of not buying plastic. But having one item that was bought for the purpose of reusing was ok. At least that was what I told myself. 

I am pleased to say that it was used ALOT. And still does. A part of me does wish I had bought something biodegradable, like wood. I also think next time i will take my own food on the flight.

travel without plastic

I was reminded of the biggest rule for avoiding plastic and any waste in general – be prepared. Sit down, write a list of every possible scenario and get yourself prepared. Since I have come back, I have found the perfect items to take when you travel to avoid plastic. 

travel without plastic

Water was easy. I found boiling to be the best option. I boiled the water twice, let it cool and poured into my two litre water bottles. You must let it cool as the hot water will heat up the steel or aluminium of the reusable bottle and you won't be able to carry it. 

I am, in a geeky way, proud that I did the full two weeks without buying one plastic water bottle and turning down free ones offered to us in the hotel rooms. Every room that I stayed in had a kettle. So the process was super easy. I did not get any upset stomachs (my biggest fear) and still don't have any signs I bought back a bug. 

However, the kettles were made of plastic and I began to wonder if the plastic was leaking into my water after being boiled to death. 

travel without plastic

We had a eight hour boat trip down the Ayarwaddy from Mandalay to Bagan. We were advised to take our own food and ventured to the local market to get snacks. I love checking out local food markets and supermarkets when I travel. This is where taking your own fold up bag comes in handy. I have had this bag for years time and I take it everywhere. So bringing it along felt like second nature. We were able to buy snacks and pop them into the reusable fold up bag. It also came in handy when I did my souvenir shopping. 

Some plastic did make its way into the trip in the form of food packaging that we shared. I did feel guilty about this (ahh this guilt!). I was doing pretty good avoiding packaged food but temptation got to me and we went halves on local treats.  There was also the first internal plane trip and I had a roll and cake, that were wrapped in cling film. I didn't open the cutlery. There is my confession and below is the evidence.

Ugh, the guilt! I did bring back the cling film from the rolls and cakes to wash and reuse at home. 

While I succeeded with my aim to not purchase or use a single plastic bottle, I feel I could have done a better job with my overall plastic use. So if you are about to embark on a trip, whether it be two weeks or two days, sit down and plan every bit. I am now seeing this as the way to be best prepared for tackling single use plastic use. 

I was happy to see glimpses of environmental awareness throughout the country. It was uplifting and made me hopeful. I hope they do for you too.

travel without plastic

travel without plastic

travel without plastic
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