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Plastic – the issue on everyone’s lips

Marine pollution has increasingly become a focus of discussion in the tourism industry.

Marine pollution has increasingly become a focus of discussion in the tourism industry.

By now almost everyone should be aware of the negative effects of plastic waste on the environment and the oceans. Only recently, the international press reported a sad find: plastic at the deepest point on the planet in the Mariana trench. This alarming problem was the subject of numerous discussions at the ITB Berlin Convention. At the ITB CSR Day the founder of the organisation Travel Without Plastic pointed out how older hotel owners in particular are still conditioned to using plastic tableware and cutlery. The sustainability officer of the cruise operator Costa also explained the enormous impact that cigarette ends have on the amount of plastic waste. According to this expert, many people wrongly assume that cigarette filters are made of harmless paper or cotton.

Those attending the discussion rounds pledged plans to reduce the amount of plastic in the future. Thomas Cook for instance has been in close contact with destinations for some time to push for a noticeable reduction in plastic waste. For a long time TUI Cruises has been making sure that nothing goes overboard that does not belong in the sea. Next year the company is already aiming to ban plastic on board.

Within the tourism industry overall awareness of the problem has increased significantly. In the world’s major cities many cafés no longer serve disposable cups and ask customers to purchase re-usable items. More and more restaurants and hotels are taking a stand against plastic straws and offering alternatives out of metal or bamboo.

California recently attracted attention with its future plan to ban small plastic bottles of shampoo and shower gel in hotels. In Asia the boutique hotel chain Akaryn is boldly setting an example: it recently opened Bangkok’s first hotel to completely ban plastic. Things are changing in the air too. On a flight from Abu Dhabi to Australia marking Earth Day, the UAE’s national carrier Etihad Airways completely dispensed with disposable items.  

Worldwide, the oceans are absorbing the main burden of plastic production. They are fed by rivers that often disgorge vast amounts of waste into the sea, as well as into areas and onto beaches popular with holidaymakers. It is only logical then that the tourism industry should have a vested interest in avoiding plastic waste. And it is not only the oceans near developing countries that are badly affected. The situation is very serious In the Mediterranean too. Rivers such as the Rhone in France and the Po in northern Italy are making headlines for the wrong reasons, which is why southern European countries are increasingly supporting avoiding plastic waste.

The WWF has launched an interesting initiative in Southeast Asia. The Mekong, which flows through several countries in Indochina, is responsible for releasing large amounts of waste into the sea. The organisation’s aim is to take measures much further upstream in order to create an awareness among the rural population for their actions. One thing is clear however: the debate surrounding coastal pollution and plastic waste in tourism has only just begun. As a result, it is certain to also be an important aspect at ITB Berlin and the ITB Berlin Convention in the future.


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