Single use plastic: the last straw

Sustainability is more than a buzzword. Once a box-ticking exercise, it has caught the imagination of many with CSR targets, no more so than the campaign to reduce and ultimately eradicate single-use plastics. This white paper explores whether the travel industry is doing enough to limit the use of single-use plastic.

Is our industry doing enough? 

Back in 2018, the UK government announced a world-leading new tax on produced or imported plastic packaging in the October 2018 Budget that applies to all plastic packaging that doesn’t include at least 30% recycled content. The tax sees up to 22p added to the cost of single-use drinks containers in England, which consumers would get back if they returned the bottle under a new deposit return scheme.

Although industry observers believe the legislation doesn’t go far enough - plus the UK government’ pledge of eliminating all avoidable waste by 2042 is a long way off - it will hopefully encourage businesses to ensure that far more packaging can be recycled and to use more recycled plastic in their packaging.

Cost is one of the biggest barriers to more being done by the industry, partly because it’s challenging to find nonplastic alternatives to cups, bottles, laundry bags and even polyamide teabags. With straws there is no argument as metal and paper alternatives are readily available.

But if legislation and alternative suppliers isn’t enough to incentivise the industry, then the sight on our screens of a male sea turtle with a 12cm plastic straw stuck in its nasal cavity, might do the trick. It has certainly spurred on consumers who can vote with their feet to turn their backs on those travel suppliers not doing enough in this area.

Our oceans play a vital role in sustaining a healthy planet. The YouTube video of the turtle had more than 16 million views. World Oceans Day - celebrated each year on June 8th – is a reminder if any of us needed it, that our oceans are the lungs of our planet, providing most of the oxygen we breathe, and cannot be clogged up. Yet, between 5-13 million tonnes of plastic does end up in our oceans each year.

Now for some more encouraging news! Two of our most respected travel suppliers – Delta Airlines and the trendy Marriott hotel brand Edition Hotels – are making industry-leading strides in this area, despite studies highlighting that 40% of companies are finding it a challenge to become more sustainable, mostly due to the cost involved. These two case studies show that it can be cost effective and that it is possible to foster sustainable initiatives and identify practical solutions to improve their environmental impact. They are beacons of light and other suppliers should follow their lead.

Read more sustainability and about Delta and Edition Hotels' anti-plastic efforts 

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