The report Rethinking Single-Use Plastic Products in Travel & Tourism was launched as countries around the world begin to reopen, and the travel and tourism sector starts to show signs of recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. The report is a first step to mapping single-use plastic products across the travel and tourism value chain, identifying hotspots for environmental leakages, and providing practical and strategic recommendations for businesses and policymakers.
It is intended to help stakeholders take collective steps towards co-ordinated actions and policies that drive a shift towards reduce and reuse models, in line with circularity principles, as well as current and future waste infrastructures.
The report’s recommendations include:
- Redefining unnecessary single-use plastic products in the context of one’s own business
- Giving contractual preference to suppliers of reusable products
- Proactively planning procedures that avoid a return to single-use plastic products in the event of disease outbreaks
- Supporting research and innovation in product design and service models that decrease the use of plastic items, and
- Revising policies and quality standards with waste reduction, and circularity in mind.
Plastic products are a threat to environment and health
Virginia Messina, Senior Vice-President and Acting CEO of the WTTC, said: “WTTC is proud to release this important high-level report for the sector, focusing on sustainability and reducing waste from single-use plastic products in travel and tourism.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the sustainability agenda with businesses and policymakers now putting an even stronger focus on it. As a growing priority, businesses are expected to continue to reduce single-use plastic products waste for the future and drive circularity to protect not only our people, but importantly, our planet.”
Single-use plastic products can be a threat to the environment and human health. Without deliberate effort across the sector, travel and tourism can and will contribute significantly to the issue.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had both negative and positive impacts on single-use plastics pollution. The demand for single-use plastics items has increased with safety being a high concern among tourists and food and drink takeaway services being on the rise. According to the Thailand Environment Institute, plastic waste has increased from 1,500 tons to a staggering 6,300 tons per day, owing to soaring home deliveries of food.
Pandemic catalysed demand for single-use plastic
However, the pandemic has also catalysed consumer demand for green tourism experiences around the world, with a 2019 global study finding 82 per cent of respondents are aware of plastic waste and are already taking practical actions to tackle pollution.
The report recognises that global solutions are required to address corporate concerns about the use of single-use plastic products. It aims to support informed decision making based on the potential impacts of trade-offs and of unintended burden shifting when considering the transition to sustainable alternatives.
Sheila Aggarwal-Khan, Director of the Economy Division at UNEP, added: "Travel and tourism has a key role to play in addressing the triple planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, as well as making circularity in the use of plastics a reality.
"The advent of Covid-19 and consequent proliferation of single-use plastic products has added urgency to the crises. With this report, we hope to encourage stakeholders in this industry to come together to address this multifaceted challenge. Only by doing so, can we ensure meaningful and durable change."
With around 90 per cent of ocean plastic derived from land-based sources and the annual damage of plastics to marine ecosystems amounting to US$13 billion per year, proactively addressing the challenge of plastics within the travel and tourism sector is key.