Reduce, reuse, recycle. These are the magic words that we must repeat as a mantra to make the environment in which we live better day by day. In our travels we go in search of breathtaking panoramas, of enchanting scenarios in which to admire the beauty of nature and the charm of different cultures. But very often we find ourselves in front of polluted beaches, where it is easier to find a plastic bottle than fish or turtles, and the same happens more and more frequently even in the most remote places on the planet
Our duty – as travelers – is to walk through the streets of the world with a light step, leaving behind us a clean and uncontaminated environment, like the one we want to find. To make this happen we need to remember some rules that have now entered the everyday life of many of us, and that allow us to save tons of waste, especially plastic. What are these rules?
First we ban disposable plastic products. Bottles, straws and cotton buds are responsible for mountains of waste: more than 80% of the waste collected on Italian beaches is represented by plastics. And, according to some hypotheses, by 2050 we will have more plastic than fish in the sea.
The European Union has banned disposable plastic products and the UE States are gearing up to apply the law: in Norway, for example, over a billion plastic bottles and cans are collected and brought back to the store in exchange for a few crowns.
Carrying with us our reusable water bottle becomes a common – and also fashionable – gesture. It is increasingly common to see, especially young people, with their colorful water bottle. And some giants, such as the American chain Starbucks have also started to encourage the use of reusable cups. In fact, the habit of take away coffee has produced a real mountain of waste that accumulates every day: about 2.5 billion plastic coated paper cups would be used every year in Great Britain.
Will consumers be able to change their habits and bring their own reusable glass with them? Can we, as travelers, be the first to set a good example when we go as guests to a different country and try to behave with respect and education? Can we show that even with small gestures, such as carrying a bottle with us, we know how to appreciate the place that hosts us?
We can only hope to see more and more reusable products in our travels. Some coffee shops already offer a discount to those who bring their own cup from home. For example, Pret à manger has been offering discounts to those who come with their own reusable cup since 2017.
Also in China a plan is being launched to ban the use of much of the disposable plastic in circulation in the country by 2025. The plan provides for the gradual ban on the production and sale of some disposable plastic products such as non-biodegradable bags, disposable cutlery, plates and straws, and cotton swabs. The document also invites to promote the use of alternative products to plastic, such as cloth, paper or biodegradable bags, and to strengthen the waste recycling system, starting with an increase in separate collection in large cities. In addition, by the end of 2025, hotels will no longer be allowed to supply disposable plastic items, and no postal service will be allowed to use plastic packaging across China.
Speaking of hotels, the Accor hotel chain has vowed to remove all single-use plastic items from its hotels by end-2022, as it joins the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative led by the United Nations Environment Program and the World Tourism Organization, in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The move is part of the hotel group’s efforts towards reducing environmental impacts and strengthening efforts to combat plastic pollution of the world’s oceans and other natural environments.
In addition to Accor’s previous commitment to eliminate all plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds, the company has also committed to the removal of individual plastic toiletry amenities and cups by the end of 2020, as well as the elimination of all remaining single-use plastic items in guest rooms, meeting areas, restaurants and all leisure activities areas (spas, fitness centers, etc.) by the end of 2022. Several Accor hotels within the group’s portfolio of brands – including Novotel Yangon Max, Myanmar; Sofitel Bogota; many hotels in Bali and Lombok, Indonesia; Ibis Styles São Paulo Anhem – have already taken steps individually to be plastic-free and are advancing towards a 100 per cent single-use plastic free objective.
All tourism companies and destinations are called to take concrete actions to tackle plastic pollution and increase plastics recycling. The tourism sector can be united behind a vision for a world in which plastic never becomes waste or pollution. It is an opportunity for tourism companies and destinations to step forward and lead the global effort addressing plastic pollution.
This is something to know, when we choose our hotel, we can orient ourselves towards environmentally friendly accommodations and our choices as consumers can push the tourism sector towards increasingly sustainable behaviors.
Bianca La Placa