In a bid to put the travel and tourism sector on a path towards sustainable recovery, the WTTC and the United Nations Environment Programme have launched a new report addressing the issue of single-use plastic products within the industry.
Entitled Rethinking Single-Use Plastic Products in Travel & Tourism, the report is a first step to mapping single-use plastic products across the travel and 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 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, 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.
With around 90 per cent of ocean plastic derived from land-based sources and the annual damage of plastics to marine ecosystems amounting to US$13 billion per year, proactively addressing the challenge of plastics within the travel and tourism sector is key.
Virginia Messina, senior vice president and acting CEO, WTTC, said: “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.”
WTTC noted in a press statement that single-use plastic products can pose a threat to the environment and human health, and that deliberate effort across the travel and tourism sector is needed to tackle the issue.
It also highlighted that the Covid-19 pandemic has had both negative and positive impacts on single-use plastics pollution.
The demand for single-use plastic 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.