Historically, single-use plastic products have been popular within the travel and tourism sector. Operationally, they facilitate compliance with health, safety, and hygiene expectations. Although they are lightweight, cheap, readily available, and are convenient for both employees and customers they continue to be hazardous to human health and the environment.
The solutions to reducing plastic pollution and reducing the climate impact of plastics are the same, that is to eliminate the use of unnecessary plastics and reduce the total volume of plastic produced and also increase recycling rates. And to make this possible the industry us be aware of the SUPP hotspots.
A hotspot is regarded as a component that is directly or indirectly contributes to plastic leakage whose impacts can be acted upon to mitigate this leakage. A hotspot can be a geographic location in a country or an element of the plastics value chain.
Hotspots are considered through four lenses based on the quantity of SUPPs that are purchased and used by Travel & Tourism businesses and the amount of plastic leaking into the environment through different pathways and waste management systems.
Today, around 90% of ocean plastic is derived from land-based sources (WasteAid 2020). This is the result of high use of single use products and plastic packaging, inadequate waste management systems, unregulated landfills and insufficient recycling rates.
For airlines, bottles are probably the most significant item, accounting for 2% of all airline waste (WRAP 2017), followed by cutlery, cups, plastic bags, and cleaning wipes.
In addition to the abovementioned products, other relevant products have been documented as contributors to plastic pollution but that is not commonly recognized by tourism value chain actors.
These are categorized in this report as hidden hotspots and include items such as cigarette butts, wet wipes, sanitary products, fishing nets, agricultural plastics and tyre abrasion.
A potential link between tourism arrivals and plastic pollution is therefore important to highlight and represent the impact of other single-use materials to enable businesses to make a more informed choice when sourcing replacement products.