“There are so many sequences that every single one of us have been involved in, even in the most peripheral way, where we have seen tragedies happen because of the plastic in the ocean,”
When I went to see seals on the coast of England this winter, I was disappointed by the amount of plastic around, even in the part fenced off to humans. The BBC’s Blue Planet 2 highlighted the impact which plastic is having on the ocean (it’s seriously worth a watch). For me, there was no scene more heartbreaking than the whale and it’s calf. The mother was carrying around her dead calf long after it died. It was believed to be poisoned by her plastic-polluted milk.
It seems like our oceans are slowly turning into a plastic smoothie. You only need to watch the video of a straw being removed from a turtle to get a glimpse of the damage it’s causing to wildlife. There are 150 million tonnes of plastic estimated to be in the ocean. It doesn’t biodegrade, it just breaks up into tiny particles which the fish mistake for food. It ends up in their diet, and the fish who eat them, and even ends up in the seafood people eat.
With plastic pollution becoming a hot issue, I wanted to write a post to challenge you to cut down on plastic whilst you travel. It’s not always easy to cut down on plastic pollution. There are still some things I am working on myself but, as the saying goes, every little helps and I’ve listed some simple ways you can do so below.
It may not be possible to do them all, but on your next trip, why not try a couple?
1. Shampoo and Conditioning Bars
Rather than taking liquid toiletries in plastic bottles, many of them can be bought in solid form. I buy shampoo and conditioner bars from Lush and they smell INCREDIBLE. I keep them in a metal container which can be cleaned and replaced with another bar once finished with. You can also buy deodorant bars.
When an online shopping order arrived last week, I was disappointed to find each item wrapped in an individual bag. The shoes even had a hanger… why?! (I tweeted and emailed the company to share my disappointment). I’m now going to try and make sure my clothes are from companies that use as little plastic as possible. One which I’ve just ordered from is Batoko, a swimwear brand based in England. The swimwear they create is 100% recycled from plastic bottles and other plastic waste and the designs are beautiful!.
So many plastic toothbrushes are wasted each year, 1 billion, to be exact, in the US (I’m not sure about the UK figure). I buy bamboo toothbrushes and the great thing about them is, once they’re finished with, they can be buried/thrown in the garden where they’ll biodegrade.
4. Beach Clean
If visiting a beach, why not take your own bag and pick up some plastic? Anything we can do to prevent plastic entering the ocean can surely make a difference. My friend, Lani, did a solo beach clean in Southend and encountered many other people doing the same thing! See her video to find out more about it here.
Like plastic toothbrushes, the amount of straws wasted is atrocious. You only have to watch the video of a straw being removed from a turtle (also mentioned above) to understand how severe the problem is. Try carrying around a bamboo or metal straw and reusing it. If you decide you don’t want your bamboo straw anymore, it can be thrown into the wilderness where it will eventually biodegrade. Another tip is to learn how to say ‘no straws please’ in the local language to avoid your drinks coming out with plastic straws.
Okay, so you must think that I’m obsessed with bamboo by now (maybe I am, it grows back so quickly!). My friend Lani, who I mentioned above, bought me a bamboo spork and now it’s going to come on every trip with me. No more plastic, throw-away cutlery and it’s so cute too!
If you take your own canvas bags, you can use these at local shops rather than taking away a plastic carrier bag. In the UK, you now have to pay 5p for a bag which encourages people to bring their own shopping bags but they don’t do this in many other countries to my knowledge.
8. Research Accommodation
Rather than going for the best deal you can find, doing a bit of research into how hotels reduce their plastic use could make a big difference. One thing to question is whether they use single-use plastics during their breakfasts. Something else to look out for is accommodation that recycles, sources local ingredients and refills their shampoos rather than providing mini ones for each room. There are also more and more eco-hotels popping up now which are worth considering.
9. Water Bottle
Research whether the water is drinkable (as in, you can drink it without making yourself sick). If so then you can fill up your bottle each day without needing to buy drinks in plastic bottles. If the water is not drinkable and you only want to drink mineral water, buy the biggest bottle you can from a local shop and use that to fill up your own water bottle. Another thing I do is boil tap water in the room and refill my bottle with that once it’s cool.
10. Bottle Tops
If you do end up buying plastic bottles whilst you’re away, or you see someone else drinking one, save the bottle top to take home with you. Lush (this is NOT a sponsored post!) have a scheme where you can take in bottle tops (e.g. milk, coke) which you have saved and they will melt them down to reuse for their surfaces. I collect them at my school and have already saved 4 large bags of bottle tops.
11. Security Bags
Most airports ask us to put our liquids in a small plastic bag. I have a plastic bag which I reuse every time whilst going through security rather than picking up a new one each time.
12. Take Action
As well as changing your own behaviour, you can also spread the message both online and in person. There are many social media campaigns like #plasticfree and #fortheoceans. There’s also the hashtag: #uselessplastic for if your disappointed with a particular company’s use of plastic. I used this for when I was disappointed with my online shopping delivery and I also emailed the company.
There you have it. I’d love to hear the of any other ways we can reduce plastic whilst travelling in the comments.
Be a part of the solution, not the pollution.