Plastic Bags in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstani people love plastic bags for their groceries. Most take one every time they shop. I don’t like plastic bags because I know the Kyrgyz authorities aren’t very skilled in taking care of garbage. Everything ends up in landfills, where the plastic will remain forever. I want to leave as few plastic bags and bottles behind in Kyrgyzstan as possible. So I carry my own bags around with me.

But the cashier girls at my favourite local supermarket don’t understand. They try to give me a new bag every time I buy something. They’re genuinely surprised when I show them I already have one or when I just refuse one.

“But how will you carry it home?” they ask.

“Just like that, I live close by.”

I’ve often formulated an answer in Russian to the question why I don’t want a bag. “I don’t want my parting present to your country to be hundreds of plastic bags in the ground.” Yet they never ask. Probably not they’re just not interested, I thought.

Until I went shopping with my girlfriend today. While I packed everything in my own bags, the girl at the cashier talked to her in Kyrgyz.

“What did she say?”

“Oh, she thought that I had told you not to take a bag every time and that’s why you carry your own.”