The pandemic has sparked a surge in plastic waste, as usage of disposables like face masks and sanitiser bottles continues to rise, with some coronavirus waste even making its way into the oceans. As such, a group of global bodies has released a set of key recommendations on how the tourism sector can continue fighting plastic pollution while tackling public health and hygiene challenges amid the pandemic.
The guidelines released by the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, led by the UNWTO and the United Nations Environment Programme, in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, aims to spur industry stakeholders to address the root causes of plastic pollution amid these challenging times.
When not properly disposed of, products such as gloves, masks and sanitiser bottles can end up polluting the natural environments around major tourist destinations, said UNWTO in a press statement.
The Recommendations for the Tourism Sector to Continue Taking Action on Plastic Pollution During Covid-19 Recovery detail how reducing plastic footprint, increasing supplier engagement, closer collaboration with waste service providers, and ensuring transparency on the actions taken, can significantly contribute to the responsible recovery of the tourism sector.
UNWTO secretary-general, Zurab Pololikashvili, said: “As the tourism sector restarts, we have a responsibility to build back better. Not managing the transition into the new reality we are facing, including the strong focus on health and hygiene measures, in a responsible manner may have a significant environmental impact, which is why this renewed commitment is vitally important.”
UNEP economy division director, Ligia Noronha, added: “We need to take a science-based approach and support governments, business, and local communities to ensure we are taking the most effective measures to protect hygiene and health without creating pollution and causing harm to our natural environment. These recommendations addressing hygiene and disposable plastic can support tourism sector stakeholders in their efforts towards a responsible recovery.”
Already, major global tourism companies Accor, Club Med, and Iberostar Group have committed to fighting plastic pollution by signing up to the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, alongside more than 20 signatories including major industry players and supporting organisations.
The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative unites the tourism sector behind a common vision to address the root causes of plastic pollution. It enables businesses and governments to take concerted action, leading by example in the shift towards a circularity in the use of plastics.