Going Green in Rural Thailand?

Mukdahan april 2009 132

Well, not really. At best,  you can hope for “out of sight, out of mind”, and then we have the oddity that is the above picture.

Mukdahanapril2009017.jpgRural Thai households are probably among the cleanest in the world. The floors are either concrete, tile or smooth teak and they are swept as much as three times a day. Unfortunately,  for the most part,  they are swept just outside the front porch and the remnants are left where they lay. Occasionally they are gathered into a pile and burned, occasionally.

At my girls family house in Mukdahan this is pretty much the case. Things are allowed to collect around the outside of the house and eventually they are gathered up and burned by the side of the house. Plastic bottles, candy wrappers, milk cartons and anything else you can think of. The process definitely goes against all reason.

Mukdahanapril172009146_thumb.jpgAnd then you have the pit at the rear of the property. This pit is roughly four feet in diameter and at least 3 feet deep. The pit is filled with plastic bags, the kind used for takeout from the market. You would get chicken skewers in them or maybe sticky rice. There are at least a thousand or more plastic bags in this pit and still room for more.

Now, What the hell is this all about? I’d love to tell you but I have no clue. As I said before,  and as the pictures show,  trash is left to accumulate and then burned. So what is the purpose of the pit and thousands of plastic food bags?

I suppose there is a possibility that these bags would draw unwelcome guests due to lingering food smells but it seems to me that the bags have been cleaned before they were deposited here. The pit has also been open for some time and there is no apparent animal activity around it.

Songkranday2and32009016_thumb.jpgPerhaps I have stumbled upon the black hole of plastic food bags and I should count myself lucky that I wasn’t sucked in and transmuted into leftover tadpole guts or ant larvae. Or worse yet,  a plastic bag with no apparent purpose in a pit.

If you think about it these bags must be lethal in some way. Why else would someone dig a pit specifically for these bags and no other trash? It could be a trap to lure in idiot falang such as myself. I can hear the family now…” young brother go dig a pit and put all the plastic bags you can find in it, I bet the falang will find it within an hour and start taking pictures”. This is probably the best possibility.

I’m sure you are wondering why I didn’t just ask what the pit was for? I did, and the answer was much more convoluted than I could ever possibly hope to go into here. I walked away from this knowing that the pit was important and that’s all the falang needed to know.

What I do know is that the pit was scheduled to be closed soon after I took the picture and buried with the bags would be all my unanswered questions. The only good to come of it all would be the green patch of grass growing over the once plastic void. It might be a while before anything else goes green around these parts.

So, what do you think?

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8 Responses to Going Green in Rural Thailand?
  1. Martyn
    October 5, 2009 | 11:43 pm

    Talen I remember you mentioning this pit a while back and now seeing the photo I’m confused even more. I haven’t seen anything like this before and its beyond me as to why. The cleaning before deposit goes against the grain in Thailand and I can only guess that for some strange reason they are going to re-dig and retrieve them at some later point. Very confusing.
    Martyn´s last blog ..Two Regions – One Conclusion My ComLuv Profile

    • Talen
      October 6, 2009 | 12:01 am

      Martyn, Digging a pit in Thailand goes against the grain unless as you say there is something more to it.

      Still scratching my head as well…maybe my next trip I will see what has happened with it or some one will explain it all to me.

  2. Mike
    October 6, 2009 | 1:26 am

    Talen, I get really upset the way the Thais deal with plastic apart from the stuff that is recycled. In my own house the floor gets the three times a day treatment, out on to the veranda then my garden. I just hate those annoying clear plastic bits they put round straws!

    Like a mug I tend to pick all this up and put it in the dustbin! Now if I can do that why can’t they?

    The pit fascinates me-guess its their own little land fill! What happens when they run out of space?

    For my own little bit of green thinking I tend to refuse plastic bags at places like a 7/11. I don’t think I have ever seen a Thai with their own shopping bag like back home. Mind you it would be difficult carrying the take-away Tom Yum!!
    Mike´s last blog ..Train Derailment Hua Hin Thailand My ComLuv Profile

    • Talen
      October 6, 2009 | 2:38 am

      Mike, I just don’t get it. The family home in Nakhon Pphanom has no trash around it but they do have weekly trash pick ups and big community trash cans.

      Mukdahan doesn’t. They keep the beer bottles and they actually collect large plastic bags from shops. The girls fold them down into tiny triangles lol.

      I hate straws! Every time you get anything to drink in Thailand they give you 5 straws in a plastic bag!

      The pit is fascinating only because I have no clue what they are doing. Maybe when I get back there will be a big plastic bean stalk growing from the pit.

  3. Thaigolfer
    October 6, 2009 | 7:25 am

    Talen, it’s so obvious.
    Even Thais know that oil is used to produce plastic.
    So they now recycle all their plastic bags and in 15 million years Thailand is getting rich on new oil fields. If I were you I would start looking around for a good second-hand oil pump.

    • Talen
      October 7, 2009 | 3:44 pm

      Thaigolfer…you may be on to something here. I think that is possibly the best explanation so far :)

  4. Catherine
    October 6, 2009 | 8:26 am

    Talen, you come up with the darnest posts….

    And how very, very odd. Plastic bags don’t break down quickly, do they? But at least they don’t burn them, forcing that horrible burnt plastic stench up your nose.

    Btw – one and off, Villa Market in Ari in BKK does give out recyclable (cloth) bags at the checkout. But they don’t do it often enough to collect a worthwhile supply.
    Catherine´s last blog ..Thai 101 Learners Series: More on Titles My ComLuv Profile

    • Talen
      October 7, 2009 | 3:46 pm

      I think it takes something like 1000 years for plastic bags to break down completely cat…don’t quote me though I’ve only been around 44 so far.

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