One of my first international adventures took me to some small towns in Central Honduras, definitely well off the tourist trail. Everything was new — the language, the donkey’s wandering the street, the cobblestones, the jungle, and the food. (The rush that came with every experience being totally outside of my comfort zone is something that I have chased around the world ever since!) I reveled in every culture quirk and difference in lifestyle from my norm and, while there were many, one of my favourite experiences came when purchasing an ice cold Cola from a small shop.
We couldn’t drink the local tap or well water, and so our safe water tended to be lukewarm from sitting in the bottom of our bag and tinged with the unsatisfying flavors of disinfecting chemicals. Even worse, it was unbearably hot out, and all I could think about was drinking something cold.
One afternoon, while exploring the small village of Yuscaran in the mountains, we decided to stop at a small store and purchase a few cold drinks. To our surprise, as soon as we bought them they were immediately poured into clear plastic bags, a straw dropped inside and an elastic band wrapped around the top of the bag and straw to secure it before they were handed over to us!
Why did the shop owner do this, you ask?
In Honduras, bottled soda, beer, and juice comes in glass bottles that are returned to the manufacturer after they are emptied. When returned, the shop owner receives a fairly substantial compensation. The bottles are then washed and reused. So, if you are taking your beverage to-go, the owner pours it into a bag so they don’t end up losing the bottle.
As a result, you will notice that you don’t see empty cans or bottles discarded in the street like you might in parts of North America. It’s also why you see people crowded around these small shops enjoying a cold drink in a plastic bag together!