Snapshots from Singapore: The To-Go Bag

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[Photographs: Max Falkowitz]

From your morning coffee to your afternoon teh tarik, your drinks in Singapore arrive, more likely than not, in real, re-usable cups. (One local, in an extended rant against Starbucks, made clear that he objected to the paper cups as much as the bad coffee.)

So what do you do when you want your drink to go? Get it poured into a bag, tied with lanyard, and stuffed with a straw. Freshly squeezed fruit juices, like the calamansi limeade above, most frequently get this treatment, but you'll find the occasional soft drink (or even coffee) slung on someone's arm as well. Sure, you can find plastic disposable cups all around, but the to-go bag is just good thinking.

For a government as litter-conscious as Singapore's, public trash cans aren't as widespread as you'll find in the U.S. (in New York there's practically a can on every corner). I've always resented holding on to empty cups while I seek out a trash can, but stuffing a to-go bag in my pocket until I found one became second nature quickly enough. That they're easier to crumple and compact than cups is an added bonus, perhaps one of the reasons you don't see overflowing trash cans much around the country.

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A rare instance of to-go bag litter.

To-go bags also make for easy hands-free operation. I kept mine slung on my arm—the lanyard loop is large enough to freely slide up to the elbow—and slurped through the straw as I went. No need to ask a friend to hold my cup while I got out my camera for a photo, fumbled for some cash, or downed some noodles on the run.

Singapore isn't the only part of the world to embrace to-go bags. You'll find them in Latin America, too. And in Canada, where milk comes in large bags for home use. My German seatmate on my flight had a reusable bottle-shaped bag he filled with tap water.

But it seems that in the U.S., once you exit the Capri Sun demographic, you also leave the world of to-go bags. Would you drink from one?

About the author: Max Falkowitz is the editor of Serious Eats: New York. You can follow him on Twitter at @maxfalkowitz.

Note: Max's recent trip to Singapore was arranged by the Singapore Tourism Board.

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