The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have launched a new report addressing the complex issue of single-use plastic products within tourism.
The work comes as countries around the world begin to reopen and the travel sector starts to show signs of recovery from the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The report is a first step to mapping single-use plastic products across the whole 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 coordinated actions and policies which drive a shift towards ‘reduce and reuse’ models, as well as current and future waste infrastructures.
The report’s recommendations include redefining unnecessary single-use plastic products in the context of a company’s own business; giving contractual preference to suppliers of reusable products; and proactively planning procedures that avoid a return to single-use plastic products in the event of disease outbreaks.
It also supports research and innovation in product design and service models which decrease the use of plastic items, as well as revising policies and quality standards with waste reduction and circularity in mind.
Virginia Messina, acting WTTC chief executive, 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 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.
“It is also becoming clear that consumers are making more conscious choices, and increasingly supporting businesses with sustainability front of mind.”
Single-use plastic products can be a threat to the environment and human health, and without deliberate effort across the sector, 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 take-away 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.
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.
Image: Amani A / Alamy Stock Photo