Guest post by Jennifer Birch
Tourism plastic is on the rise. Statistics from One Planet Network show that if current trends continue, our oceans might contain more plastic waste than marine life by the year 2050. In addition, around 80 percent of tourism occurs in coastal areas, with plastic pollution in rivers being carried out to sea. In the Mediterranean region alone, the amount of litter increases by up to 40 percent during the peak tourist season.
The impact on marine lifeIn our major oceans, there are large areas called garbage patches containing plastic and other types of marine debris. Rotating ocean currents known as gyres pull debris in and form these patches. The Pacific Ocean has two gyres, which has accumulated plastics and other debris in what is known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” The Marine Debris Program outlines how the majority of this patch is made up of microplastics, which are defined as plastic pieces smaller than 5mm in size.
The impact of this plastic garbage on marine wildlife is devastating. For instance, six-pack rings from drink containers, plastic bag handles, and packaging debris can trap and entangle animals. In addition, they can swallow microplastics which can remain in their systems, transferring up the food chain
Initiatives by the tourism industry
The tourism industry is taking action against plastics. The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative aims to transition to a circular plastic economy and promote sustainable tourism across the planet. It currently has over 450 signatures from businesses, governments, and other organizations involved in the tourism industry, with the common goal of reducing plastic pollution. Part of the plan requires tourism organizations to commit to making plastic packaging reusable, recyclable, or compostable, finding alternatives to single-use plastics. They also commit to publicly reporting progress made towards these targets.
Reducing Your Impact
You can help do your part by being mindful of your plastic consumption, especially when you travel. Here are a few tips to keep in mind on your next journey.
- Pack your own cutlery and forego plastic straws.
- Make your own coffee in your Airbnb or hotel to help reduce waste from throw-away cups.
- Avoid eating airline food as it heavily uses plastic containers and wrapping.
- Try to avoid plastic containers when buying street food.
- Avoid single-use hotel shampoo bottles & bring your own shampoo bar instead.
- Buy a bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic one.