As the fight against plastic pollution continues to heat up, these are the travel companies saying no to single-use plastics.
Plastic is a problem. It’s estimated that 300 million tons of plastic is produced every year, half of which is disposable, and 8 million tons of which ends up in the ocean. All plastic poses a threat to the environment and single-use plastics, such as straws, drinks stirrers, and water bottles, are particularly damaging due to their limited one-time lifespan and the speed at which we create and dispose of them.
The world has been made more aware of the damaging effects of our plastic addiction, helped in part when the BBC aired “Blue Planet 2” in 2017, and now large corporations and individuals are attempting to reduce their waste.
As the eco-travel trend continues to gain momentum, travelers are striving to reduce their environmental impact and travel companies are getting involved too, with everything from conservation tours to volunteer programs. While plastics are still prevalent in the hospitality industry, there are some hotels, airlines, and restaurants attempting to change that. Take a look at some of the companies striving to remove single-use plastics from their services.
EDITION hotels have launched a campaign called Stay Plastic Free, which is working to remove plastics from the entire hospitality industry.
To help other hotels achieve this, the company provides lists of plastic-free vendors to help hotels make the switch to greener alternatives. EDITION also collaborates with influential hoteliers to inspire other hotels to tackle their plastic use.
EDITION itself has cut out single-use plastics across its portfolio of hotels in London, Miami Beach, New York, West Hollywood, Barcelona, Abu Dhabi, Shanghai, Sanya in China, and Bodrum in Turkey. The usual culprits of plastic cups, straws, and water bottles have been replaced with cardboard, paper, and bamboo alternatives.
In the rooms, minibars no longer stock plastic items and toothbrushes are made from bamboo. In the EDITION London location, even the coasters have been replaced with ones made from regenerated ocean plastic.
The hotel group is aiming to be completely plastic-free by 2022, with the goal to replace all disposable plastic products with compostable or reusable alternatives. Glass bottles are now used throughout the resorts, which saves the hotel from using 15,000 plastic bottles per month. Toiletries are provided in ceramic containers and straws are made from bamboo or lemongrass.
In 2017, the hotel group launched “Earth Lab” across each of the Six Senses properties, which aims to educate guests on the hotel’s own sustainability practices with the hope to inspire guests to incorporate their own sustainable practices at home.
The AKARYN Hotel Group achieved the lofty goal of becoming a single-use plastic-free company in June 2019.
Guests receive stainless-steel water bottles upon check-in which can be refilled from the water fountains found on each floor. In the rooms, bin bags are biodegradable, toiletries can be found in corn starch and ceramic containers, and there are reusable tote bags which guests are encouraged to use for any shopping trips they make.
Portuguese airline Hi Fly operated the world’s first plastic-free flight in December 2018. Flying from Lisbon to Brazil, the flight had no single-use plastics on board, with cups, spoons, packaging, toothbrushes, and even sick bags having been replaced with plastic-free paper and bamboo alternatives.
After four plastic-free flights, the airline stated around 350 kilograms of single-use plastics had been prevented from being used and disposed of. After the successful first flights, Hi Fly has announced their aim for all of their flights to become plastic-free by the end of 2019.
Australian airline Qantas trialed their first waste-free flight from Sydney to Adelaide earlier this year. It replaced plastic food containers with sugar cane alternatives and cutlery made from corn starch. Any waste was then sorted to be reused, recycled, or composted.
The airline has set the goal to eliminate 100 million pieces of single-use plastic from flights by 2022, making it one of Australia’s single biggest waste-reduction initiatives. This is expected to include replacing cups, cutlery, and headrest covers with greener alternatives.
Etihad Airways, based in the UAE, became the first major airline to make a long-haul flight with no single-use plastics onboard on Earth Day, April 22, 2019. The flight departed from Abu Dhabi and landed in Brisbane. Onboard, it offered single-use plastic-free alternatives to everything from cups to cutlery, headset bags to toothbrushes. Some more creative solutions included edible wafer coffee cups and blankets made from recycled bottles.
In total, 95 different items made from single-use plastic were replaced with eco-friendly alternatives. Although the flight was a one-off, the airline has pledged to reduce plastic use by 80 percent by 2023.
London-based restaurant Spring has become one of the city’s first plastic-free restaurants. Plastic straws are banned and after realizing the kitchen used 800 miles of cling film a year, the kitchen has switched to reusable containers instead.
Taking it beyond the venue itself, the restaurant also only buys from eco-friendly suppliers and asks for their food to be delivered in reusable packaging. When suppliers can’t comply, new ones are found. The chef behind the restaurant and plastic-free push is Skye Gyngell, who regularly holds talks and events to inspire other restaurants to follow suit.
Norwegian cruise line Hurtigruten banned single-use plastics aboard their ships in 2018. Everything from plastic straws, drink mixers, cups, coffee lids, cutlery, packaging, bags, and even plastic aprons and single-use butter packaging were removed. These were replaced with eco-friendlier alternatives such as those made from paper, metal, or biodegradable materials.
The ban was also imposed in the hotels, restaurants, and land-based operations of the company too. Guests and crew members frequently take part in beach cleans in the destinations they visit to make sure the coast is left with less plastic on it than when the ship arrived.
Natural Habitat Adventures
Group tour company Natural Habitat Adventures banned plastic straws and water bottles years ago. But in June 2019, they went a step further to reduce their plastic waste by running a trip to Yellowstone National Park which they dubbed the world’s first “zero waste” itinerary.
Though there was a great focus on reducing food waste, the group’s use of single-use plastics was also tackled. At the start of the tour, guests were provided with reusable coffee mugs, water bottles, bamboo cutlery, and a tote bag to replace the plastic alternatives. Plastic containers for toiletries were removed from hotel rooms on the tour and food was picked up from restaurants in the company’s own reusable containers.