Original Article by Svilena Velcheva
Let’s call her “X”- one of the many faceless street vendors making ends meet by selling produce at the market. If you frequent Chataldza Market you’ve probably stopped by her stall for some fresh salad, cucumbers, tomatoes…
She’d prefer to remain anonymous. Staying away from the spotlight means staying away from trouble.
Like most women, she prioritizes her family, her children, and puts herself last. I ask her to imagine that her monthly income suddenly increases by 40 or 50 leva- money she can have only for herself. The amount roughly corresponding to the sum she spends on plastic bags. “40-50 leva- thrown at the wind. That makes 600 per year. Is that nothing?!”- says X, looking at me without expecting a reply. For some it might be nothing but for her it’s a lot. She doesn’t give a thought about sending this kind of money for herself if it were to remain in her pocket. “I’d buy a cake. I don’t smoke or drink, but I eat sweets. I’d like to think that every month I’d get a cake from my customers” she says, smiling as if she can see a grand chocolate Garash cake sitting right there between the produce piled on her stall.
For now, that is just a distant dream. By her estimates only 20% of shoppers bring their own bag to the market. What is worse than the money wasted on plastic bags, she says, is the customers’ attitude. “The customers themselves are very disrespectful. I give them stronger bags and tell them: Bring it back next time- much easier. But they’d rather use it as a garbage bag that to reuse it again next time. We Bulgarians are not so good at preserving- X shakes her head and continues- Maybe because the cost doesn’t come out of pocket. Things would change if customers had to pay for their bags.”
It’s not rare for customers to request more than one bag for a single purchase. “Some go too far. They want, let’s say, two tomatoes in one bag, two cucumbers in another- when I try to put them all in one bag they say: “Oh, no, I want them separate.” I ask them: “Why?” They go in the same fridge, the same salad bowl…Is it necessary to bag the separately? No manners! – says X and continues- I can’t do anything about it. I’ve thought about paper bags, but they are just too expensive. Losing 50 leva per month is one thing but 100 leva is too much.
You can do something about this, can’t you? Just grab your very own canvas bag and let the vendor know: No, thanks, I’ve my own! Treat the lady at the market to a cake!
This article is a part of the #NoThanksIhavemyown and is made possible by the Vivacom Fund.