The road to Laksao continues and while lunch time approaches, we’re getting hungry. The Songtaw pulls over and gives us a special gift.
Seemingly in the middle of nowhere a small table has something delicious on it. I cannot see it out of the Songtaw, but the girl in front jumps out and buys whatever it is. She leaves the table empty, her hands packed with 3 big bags, and the lady behind the table with some Laos’ Kip – the local currency.
The gives us a bag and takes the other inside with the driver. You should know a Songtaw looks like a pickup truck with wooden couches in which we can enjoy both the open-air and the scenery, and in which an incredible amount of people fit – I think my record is almost 40, which means a high dense population considering the small surface of the pickup trunk.
Zero Waste – Old habit
The sleeping man wakes up and the picturing man hands gives us both a part of the bag. It is a combination of three small objects in leaves bound together with a bamboo string. I watch them carefully before opening up the package myself, when I figure out that these are little corns. They taste sweet and tasty and fill us with joy and food.
I observe the other guy, whenever he finished one of the corns, he throws the leaves out of the vehicle. Giving nature back to nature. And then it all makes sense to me. The reason why people here all the time just throw their waste out of the busses, or wherever they go. Giving it back to nature. Although in the past all their food packaging materials might have been biodegradable it is not the case anymore.
Old habit vs new reality
It makes sense to give nature back to nature, the leaves will compost eventually and become fertile soil again. Yet, the industry’s replacement of these biological materials by plastic wrappings does not work according to the same logic.
Therefore, at the side of the roads in Laos, but in all other countries I’ve visited the last couple of months, rather than having corn leaves and other biodegradable materials, there are piles of plastic waiting for a degradation process of decades, rather than months.
So, who’s the one to blame actually? Is it the old habit that does not fit with reality anymore, or are it the companies who brought in the plastic wrapping material without noticing about the harm? Should returning to biodegradable materials – as back in the old times – provide a way out of the entire plastic waste crisis?
I take it a step further in the next post.
But before that, I’ll get another leave-packed edible object. I’m still not sure what it was, but it tasted good, and even better because I knew I was not adding anything to the plastic trash trace.