On November 7th, 2018, Collins Dictionary selected the word single-use as the 2018 word of the year. The word is defined as something made to only be used once and then disposed of. This word was selected because of a growing realisation of the extent at the human race’s dependence on single-use items and the hugely negative impacts they are having on the environment. According to Collins Dictionary, there has been a ‘four-fold increase in usage of this word since 2013’. The word has been mostly associated with the use of things like plastic bags, plastic straws, plastic water bottles and plastic cutlery. The travel and tourism industry is no stranger to this problem but there are things you can do to contribute and help. Below are a few handy tips on how to avoid using single-use plastics when you travel.
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How to avoid single-use plastics
1. Say no to plastic bags
It seems that no matter where you go, whenever you buy something the people serving you will try to pack your goods into plastic bags. It is actually quite frustrating to see. When you buy something, whether it’s groceries, takeaway food or souvenirs, just say no to the offer of a plastic bag. Carry a reusable tote bag or pack things into your backpack. According to Ocean Crusaders, shoppers worldwide are using approximately 500 billion single-use plastic bags per year, most of which ends up in our oceans.
2. Say no to plastic straws
The plastic straw, a redundant, unnecessary item most of the time, yet it comes with almost all cold served drinks. According to the National Parks Service ‘Americans use 500 million drinking straws every day‘ which equates to a single person using about ‘38,000 straws between the ages of 5 and 65.’ That is a lot of straws, and that is just statistics of the American population. Plastic straws, just like plastic bags, are hardly ever reused and more often than not end up in our oceans, on our beaches and hurting and killing wildlife.
From now on when you order drinks at bars, restaurants, or cafes that could potentially come with a straw, ask them to leave it out of your drink. If you persist, buy a reusable straw and carry it with you at all times.
You can choose from a range of reusable straws on Biome, an ethical, cruelty-free and zero-waste online store based in Brisbane, Australia.
3. Eat-in restaurants, rather than ordering takeaway
Eating in a restaurant or cafe means you will be using plates, cutlery and glasses that will all be washed and reused. Ordering take-out means plastic packaging, plastic cutlery, polystyrene containers, disposable coffee cups, plastic bags and plastic straws, all of which are non-recyclable.
4. Buy unpackaged foods from markets and cook
Staying in an Airbnb or a hotel with a kitchenette and shopping at markets is a great way to lower your output of plastic. One of the biggest contributors to the rise in single-use plastic pollution is the plastic packaging industry so it is important to reduce the amount of packaged foods you consume. By purchasing unpackaged food products from markets, you will be able to snack during the day and cut down on your output of plastic from pre-packaged foods and take away food and cook your own food and make your own meals.
5. Limiting and refusing bottled water
The last thing you can do is to refuse and minimise the use of bottled water and to drink tap water and refill a reusable water bottle. Not all areas you will travel to have access to fresh drinking tap water so this one can be a hard one to live by, depending on where you are travelling. If you do find yourself in a place like Vietnam, where the water is unsafe to drink, it is best to purchase larger 3 or 4-litre bottles of water and refill your reusable water bottle instead of buying smaller 700mL bottles of water every single day.
You can buy things like steripens and filtered water bottles but I have never used one myself. Two reasons for having never tried these products. I was advised by my doctors to be safe, rather than sorry, and by local tour guides who also recommend steering clear just to be on the safer side.
How to avoid using single-use plastics when you travel
Thanks for reading about how to avoid using single-use plastics when you travel. The fact you are reading this means you want to make a difference to the world and the tourism industry. Read the articles below for more tips.
- What is sustainable tourism and why is it important?
- 50 ways you can be a more sustainable traveller
- How to be a responsible traveller