The EU’s new draft legislation on single-use plastics is shining a light on how we as travellers can do our bit. Here are some top tips…
We all love some good news, and last November’s announcement by the European Union got us cheering for an advancement on 2019’s ban of the most common single-use plastic items, such as plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds. The change can’t come soon enough, given that around 14 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean every year, making up 80% of all marine debris and doing untold harm to our fragile marine ecosystems.
The new draft regulation goes several steps further, with plans to outlaw disposable shampoo bottles in hotels and throwaway coffee cups in cafés, as well as enforcing mandatory deposit-and-return schemes for plastic bottles. It all amounts to good news for the planet – but how can we, as travellers, do our bit?
Our first port of call should be single-use drinks bottles. This may sound obvious, but given that one million single-use plastic bottles are bought every minute, saying no to drinks bottles is a good place to kick the plastics habit. Take along your own reusable bottle when you travel and seek out refill stations, or ask in cafés and restaurants – most will be happy to refill your bottle with potable water.
If you’re buying soft drinks, opt for cans rather than plastic as aluminium can be endlessly recycled. Travelling in a country lacking safe tap water? Then consider investing in a LifeStraw bottle, which has its own built-in water purification system. Taking along a small thermos, or reusable coffee cup, will also cut down on your disposable product footprint.
Although European hotels will soon have to make the switch to sustainable bathroom amenities, you can go one step further by bringing your own small refillable containers. Avoid disposable mini bottles and travel kits, and think instead about switching to plastic-free products, such as reusable face cloths instead of wipes, and bamboo toothbrushes instead of plastic.
Opting for sustainable products is also a good switch, such as Lush’s fairtrade solid shampoo and conditioner bars, which have the added bonus of saving you space in your carry-on liquids bag, or beauty products by B Corp-certified Upcircle, which uses leftover natural products such as coffee grounds and rose petals.
While our impact as individuals will never match that of the industry, our sway as consumers shouldn’t be underestimated. As well as voting with our dollars, it’s worth getting involved in citizen action, signing petitions, contacting businesses that you think could be doing better and volunteering for beach cleanups. And if you are presented with single-use plastic items on your travels – whether that’s disposable cutlery in a restaurant or mini bottles in guest bathrooms – do consider speaking to management and asking them to stop using these products. Our voices and choices are more powerful than we think.