Thursday, August 30, 2012

Plastic bags as an indicator

Of what? When we were in Penang last month, Queensbay Mall sets aside weekends as ‘no plastic bag’ days. Whether we liked it or not we had to bring a reusable bag with us if we wanted to do any shopping.

In contrast when we were in Bangkok a week later, it was plastic bags galore! At a pastry shop, each pastry is individually wrapped in a plastic bag. If we bought four croissants, each had its own bag. Then all of them were placed into another plastic bag! I felt guilty enough to actually bring all the plastic bags back to the States with us for reuse. (Note to self: Bring reusable bags next time - although I’m sure we’d get strange looks.)

The environmental Kuznets curve predicts that when countries get ‘rich’ enough pollution starts to decrease. My gut says that Penang and Bangkok are similar in income levels - if anything, Bangkok seems more affluent. The difference seems to be the degree of inequality - Bangkok seems to have a higher income inequality, a smaller middle class that in theory would care enough to act on social issues like plastic bags.

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