Plastic is a scourge on the environment. It became a reality for me when on holiday in Croatia I wandered down towards a secluded beach. It seemed pristine; a haven in all its perfection. Until the illusion was shattered by the floating balloon of a plastic bag brushing up against the rocks. This was a beach in Croatia, but even in the most untouched corners of the world plastic has become an ugly resident. The reason? Because there’s just too much of it and it won’t go away anytime soon. A whopping 50% of everyday plastic is single-use only. Once thrown out it ends up in landfills and eventually converges in our waterways.
Great islands of plastic float on the surface on the water. It gets into the bodies of mammals and seabirds. Even humans have been tested positive for BPA (a chemical found in plastic). With plastic outnumbering marine life six to one in some parts of the ocean and the industry making more than we can get rid of it’s time to make a stand before the earth becomes a plastic-coated wasteland. Luckily, when it comes to your packing list, travelling doesn’t have to adhere to the single-use plastics trend. In fact, packing smart, with an awareness of your habits and activities abroad can help you reduce single-use plastics and even save money on your trip!
So, without further ado, here are five easy ways to cut down on single-use plastic while travelling:
#1 Use bamboo cutlery
A bamboo cutlery kit is a great investment if you’re going to a country which is known for its street food or you know you’ll be indulging in a takeaway here and there. This simple addition will save you from using and throwing away plastic forks every time you eat. The bamboo is smooth so there’s no danger of feeling like you’re eating your dinner with splintery lollipop sticks. Better still, bamboo is sustainable and easy to recycle. Of course, if you’re the type of traveller who prefers to cook all your meals at home then bamboo cutlery might be a bit excessive. Otherwise, they’re a perfect way to limit single-use plastics on the road in food markets, takeaways and picnics. I can’t wait to meander around the food markets of Hong Kong with a set of my own.
#2 Take a spare canvas or cotton bag
Packing for a trip can be overwhelming. Luckily, there are hundreds of packing advice out there for every type of destination you could go to. Some of them suggest taking a couple of plastic bags to keep shoes or wet clothes from ruining the contents of your rucksack. But plastic bags are one of the biggest offenders of single-use plastic pollution with an estimated one million being used every minute worldwide. Consider using a cotton bag to stash away your shoes or dirty clothes instead. If you need something a little sturdier and you’re in the mood for a bit of DIY, then you can easily waterproof a canvas bag with wax. If not, you can buy bags made from synthetic fibre. They still contain plastic but many of them are recycled or recyclable, and they last a lifetime! They come in handy if you’re doing a food shop abroad.
#3 Use a bamboo toothbrush and case set
We all need toothbrushes and they are without a doubt a travel essential. In all fairness, we do tend to use them more than once. But when they’ve served their purpose, billions of tonnes of toothbrushes end up in landfills and oceans every year. Oral health is important, but should the environment be compromised? We no longer have to make a choice when we now have FCA-certified bamboo handled toothbrushes. They still aren’t 100% biodegradable as the bristles are made of nylon. But despite this imperfection, it’s certainly progress for the world of oral hygiene! You can even buy a bamboo case to protect your toothbrush when travelling. Lightweight and naturally bacterial, they’re a step up from that grubby plastic alternative.
#4 Pack some metal straws
Single-use plastic straws are not only pollutants, but they also have the unfortunate habit of blowing off landfill sites into the surrounding wildlife. They get stuck in the noses of turtles and wound around the intestines of birds. Many establishments have kicked plastic straws to the curb, favouring their paper cousins instead. I’ve even heard of one bar using long pasta tubes as straws! Yes really! But if you happen to like straws and you’re keen to adopt a minimal waste lifestyle while you’re travelling, a metal straw is a great alternative. They’re nifty, reusable, and don’t take up much space in your bag. Straws have never been so classy with some brands including a metal personalised kit with a cleaning brush to match!
#5 Use a silicone takeaway coffee cup lid
Travelling can be tiring and sometimes you need some fuel to keep you going on a busy day of backpacking. A soothing cup of tea or coffee is great for those long journeys, but the waste from takeaway beverages is an epidemic. Don’t be fooled by the cup’s cardboard ruse, it’s often mixed with a binding agent which is not easy to separate or recycle. Carrying your own reusable coffee cup and lid is a great way to cut down on waste. But if you find the cup a bit bulky and impractical or you’re not really that fussed about a hot cuppa every day then a reusable silicone coffee cup lid is a great solution. Yes, there will be waste, but even if it limits the number of plastic lids being used each time then a little will go along way. With governments calling a ban on unrecyclable takeaway coffee cups, it won’t be long before a biodegradable alternative will become mainstream.
Do you have any tips to reduce plastic while travelling? I would love to hear from you!
If you enjoyed this then you might like 5 essentials for any backpacker’s packing list for more tips on how to have an eco-friendly holiday.
Thanks for reading,