On the occasion of the first anniversary of the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, lead organisations the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation hosted a panel discussion on “Eliminate.Innovate.Circulate. Strategies from the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative” at ITB Berlin Now, at which they announced 15 new signatories from across accommodation companies, business associations, consultancies, tours operators and NGOs.
Panellists discussed how addressing plastic waste and pollution, building on circular principles, can support a responsible recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and shared strategies and actions that they are implementing to achieve their commitments. The event also showcased how addressing plastic waste and pollution, by building on circular principles, can support a responsible recovery from COVID-19, in line with the Recommendations for the tourism sector to continue taking action on plastic pollution during COVID-19 recovery.
During the event, the Initiative announced 15 new signatories that have set concrete targets on the circular economy of plastics in the tourism sector around the elimination of unnecessary single-use plastics, the introduction of reuse models and work on value chain level to improve the recyclability of plastics and support purchasing of plastics with recycled content.
This brings the total of the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative signatories up to 61 companies and organizations (among which are accommodation providers, tour operators, online platforms, suppliers, waste managers and supporting organizations).
Sustainable First, as an early signatory, welcomed all new organizations and companies that joined the movement.
Among the 15 new signatories the Initiative counts the following accommodation companies, business associations, consultancies, tours operators and NGOs from Colombia, Nicaragua, United States, Singapore, Spain, Argentina, India, Togo, Azerbaijan, Egypt and Costa Rica:
– El Rio Hostel
– Golden Frog Colombia SAS
– La Bicicleta Hostal
– Music City Hostel
– Eight Wave Events & Destinations
– LifeXperiences SL
– Wilderness Patagonia – Travel Company
– Young Environmentalists Programme Trust
– Association Togo Welfare
– Azerbaijan Hotel Association
– Chamber of Diving and Water Sports of Egypt
– Esencialmente Destinos
– Fundacion Water Sports Plastic Free
– Global Ecotourism Network
Panellists from Anse Chastanet & Jade Mountain Resorts St Lucia, Six Senses Hotels Resorts and Spas, Iberostar Group and Booking shared practical recommendations to ensure that alternatives to plastic products are not resulting in unintended environmental impacts, to integrate reuse models and circular solutions involving local suppliers, to streamline procurement and minimize waste to cope with limited recycling possibilities and to communicate progress to all stakeholders, including travellers.
During the event, speakers outlined the added value for the tourism stakeholders to join the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative.
Dr. Megan Morikawa, Global Sustainability Office Director at Iberostar highlighted the need to create a strong link between sustainability and recovery of the tourism sector: “We must find a way to make tourism more resilient. The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative can help us solve one critical step – working to reduce & eliminate problematic plastics“.
Thomas Loughlin, Sustainable Supply Lead, Booking called the tourism sector to join forces: “We must come together as an industry to end plastic pollution in travel.”
Jeffery Smith, Vice President Sustainability, Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas insisted on the need for a collective action to tackle the issue of plastic pollution: “Plastic pollution is painful on tourism destinations. The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative is an excellent forum to move collectively on solutions.”
Carl Hunter, Property Manager, Anse Chastanet & Jade Mountain Resorts St Lucia highlighted the opportunity to jointly collaborate around the introduction of innovative solutions on destination level: “Working together to innovate and resolve the use of all single-use plastics in the hospitality sector, and by extension the communities we serve!”
More specifically, the event highlight four key takeaways for how tourism can tackle plastic pollution:
1. Elimination of unnecessary and problematic plastics:
- It is possible to eliminate without compromising the guest experience.
- It is important to be mindful of the waste infrastructure available when selecting alternatives to plastic products.
- Attention: Polylactic acid (PLA) compostables are not suitable for backyard composting, they require industrial composting facilities.
- To avoid unintended environmental impacts of alternatives to plastic products, it is important to consider the results of life cycle assessments.
2. The integration of reuse models:
- Reuse models can increase safety as they allow hotels to control sanitization procedures (e.g. refillable water bottles, shampoo dispensers).
- Single-use plastics are not sanitization measures in themselves and they need to be sanitized.
- Working with local supply chains allows for the development of take-back programmes that can result in the creation of local jobs (e.g. local fishermen supply fish in reusable coolers).
3. The engagement of suppliers and waste managers:
- There are plastic products “beyond the usual suspects” for which post-consumer recycled plastic content could be increased (e.g. TVs or AC units).
- The empowerment of purchasing teams is key to avoid bringing in redundant products and reducing plastics at the source.
- Reducing waste is essential as in many tourism destinations, there is no segregation or recycling taking place.
- Minimizing plastics and waste contribute to reducing our carbon footprint and protect ecosystems with carbon sequestration potential.
4. Communicating progress to all stakeholders, including travellers:
- Making information on progress tackling plastic pollution is key for other tourism stakeholders to take the first steps.
- Consumers are likely to choose more sustainable accommodations as the pandemic has amped their perception of the importance of a healthy environment.
- The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative is a community of practice where those interested in sustainability can learn, exchange and progress.
- The influence that the tourism sector can play in other sectors, especially in destinations such as islands, should not be underestimated.