LONDON, 18 June 2021: The Covid-19 pandemic delivers both
negative and positive impacts on single-use plastics pollution, according to a
new report released earlier this week by the World Travel & Tourism Council
and the United Nations Environment Programme.

The report ‘Rethinking Single-Use Plastic Products in Travel
& Tourism’ launches as countries worldwide begin to reopen, and the travel
and tourism sector starts to show signs of recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic,
which has been devastating.

However, the report points out that demand for single-use
plastics items has increased, with safety being a serious 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.

The pandemic has also catalysed consumer demand for green
tourism experiences worldwide, with a 2019 global study finding 82% of
respondents are aware of plastic waste and are already taking practical actions
to tackle pollution.

The report is the first step to mapping single-use plastic
products across the tourism value chain, identifying hotspots for environmental
leakages, and providing practical and strategic recommendations for businesses
and policymakers.

It will help stakeholders take collective steps towards
coordinated actions and policies that drive a shift towards reduction and reuse
models, in line with circularity principles and current and future waste
infrastructures.

Must-do list

Redefine unnecessary single-use plastic products in the context of one’s own business.
Give contractual preference to suppliers of reusable products.
Adopt proactive planning procedures that avoid a return to single-use plastic products in the event of disease outbreaks.
Support research and innovation in product design and service models that decrease the use of plastic items.
Revise policies and quality standards with waste reduction and circularity in mind.

WTTC senior vice president and acting  CEO Virginia Messina said: “WTTC is
proud to release this critical high-level report for the sector, focusing on
sustainability and reducing waste from single-use plastic products.

“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, companies 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.

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.

UNEP director of the economy division Sheila Aggarwal-Khan
added: “Travel and tourism has a key role to play in addressing the triple
planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, as well as
making circularity in the use of plastics a reality.

The advent of Covid-19 and the consequent proliferation of
single-use plastic products has added urgency to the crises. With this report,
we hope to encourage stakeholders in this industry to come together to address
this multifaceted challenge. Only by doing so can we ensure meaningful and
durable change.”

With around 90% 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 in the
travel sector is key.

To read the report in full, please click here