New plastics report warns travel industry and call for unity

Photo of hundreds of plastic cups being disposed of

A major industry report has endorsed significant changes in how the travel sector works with single-use plastics, sending a strong signal that airlines, hotels, cruise lines, and other companies need to worry more about the environmental impact of items like shampoo bottles, food utensils, and drinking straws and stay ahead of a coming regulatory crackdown by governments worldwide.

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) published a report this week that recommended an overhaul of the industry’s use of single-use plastics with specific recommendations.

The report comes against a backdrop of industry ferment. The European Union and more than 120 countries have taken actions to curb the use of single-use plastics.

“Consumers like to talk about sustainability and ESG [environment, social and governance concerns] but they’re not willing to pay a higher price for it,” said Tyler Morse, chairman and CEO of hotel development and management firm MCR, during the virtual Skift Hospitality & Marketing Summit on June 16.

But progress still needs to be made on adopting alternatives to plastic that aren’t frustrating travelers.

“Everyone’s outlawing plastic straws,” Morse said. “But paper straws don’t work after you sip on it five times, when they disintegrate in your mouth. The answer unequivocally is avocado pit straws that look and feel just like plastic straws but they cost nine times what a plastic straw does.”

The report studied data voluntarily submitted by 69 hotels worldwide, with a heavy representation from all-inclusive resorts. The worst offenders were water bottles, making up to 32 percent by weight. Next up were disposable toiletries (31 percent by weight) and plastic bags and liners.

There were geographic variations. In North America and Europe, plastic bags tend to be roughly twice the weight as those in other parts of the world, often doubling the waste.

The report’s answer to this question is partly that travel companies should try to reduce the use of these items rather than seek replacements “wherever possible.”

This is an excerpt from an article by Sean O’Neill, originally published by Skift.

Travindy is an independent website featuring news and opinion on all issues to do with tourism and sustainability. Written primarily for an industry audience, our aim is to support the transformation of the sector into one that is regenerative, restorative and fully inclusive.

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