A new report by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), focusing on the complex issue of single-use plastic products within the travel and tourism industry, is offering practical and strategic recommendations for businesses and policymakers.
Titled, “Rethinking single-use plastic products in travel & tourism”, the report launches 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 intended to help stakeholders take collective steps towards coordinated 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.
“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,” said Virginia Messina, senior vice president and acting CEO of WTTC.
“It is also becoming clear that consumers are making more conscious choices, and increasingly supporting businesses with sustainability front of mind,” she added.
The role of the pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has had both negative and positive impacts on single-use plastics pollution, according to the WTTC.
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 percent of respondents are aware of plastic waste and are already taking practical actions to tackle pollution.