BANGKOK — One for the morning bottle of OJ, another for afternoon milk tea and yet one more for the dinner table’s glass of lime-infused ice water.
Over half of Thais who participated in a survey said they use plastic straws daily, with a fourth saying they used several in a day – especially women, online pollster YouGov announced Monday. The survey comes as Thailand faces a growing reckoning over its disposable culture in the form of dying sea life and overflowing landfills.
Asked about the results, a Greenpeace Thailand anti-plastics campaigner said it’s an understandable consequence of habit.
“As a woman, when I go out with my girlfriends, they like to use a straw because it’s convenient, or they didn’t refuse a seller putting one in their drink,” Pichmol Rugrod said.
The YouGov survey found that 24 percent of Thais use plastic straws multiple times a day, with 29 percent using one a day. Of the women surveyed, 59 percent use straws at least once a day, compared to 47 percent of men.
“Some are concerned about whether the cups they’re drinking from at some shops are clean, and some people who wear lipstick don’t want to leave a mark on the glass,” Pichmol said of possible reasons for the gender disparity.
Ultimately, gender was less of a determiner in who uses more plastic than lack of awareness, she added.
“It’s up to the individual,” she said.
The YouGov poll was conducted in February. YouGov selected 1,016 respondents from its pool of 165,000 Thais who have signed up to participate in return for compensation. They were selected by age, gender, income group and education level in order to be representative. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percent.
“While most Thais believe that conserving the environment is paramount, this doesn’t appear to have translated into their actions,” head pollster Aisanart Wuthithankul said. “Our data shows significant numbers of Thais are still relying on single-use plastics in their daily lives.”
One-in-five respondents said they use straws many times a week, while about 10 percent said they use only one a week. Few respondents said they use straws less often than that.
Although more women admitted to being culprits, they were also more likely to carry reusable straws. Nearly half of the women (47 percent) said they owned one compared to 36 percent of men polled. It found younger people were more likely to own reusable straws.
Those who didn’t cited inconvenience, lack of need and not knowing where to get one as to why.
The reuse and recycling of plastics has become a growing cottage industry as society confronts the impact of its habits on health and the environment.
Those looking to relieve their consciences can donate new or cleaned used straws (the latter cut into short lengths 1- to 2-centimeters long) by mail to a Catholic hospice care center operated by the Diocese of Chanthaburi.
New straws will be used to help incontinent patients to drink water and the used pieces as pillow stuffing. Straws should be the standard size – about half a centimeter in diameter, not the larger type commonly used for bubble tea.
Straws can be donated through the end of the year by sending them to:
Diocesan Social Action Center of Chanthaburi (DISACC)
89 Moo 16, Khlong Hin Pun, Wang Nam Yen
Sa Kaeo 27210
The diocese can be reached by telephone at 089-939-8665 or 086-143-4118.
YouGov is a UK-based market research company.