Each year around 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans, and causes the deaths of up to one million seabirds, 100.000 sea mammals, marine turtles and countless fish. With 80% of all tourism taking place in coastal areas, plastic from the sector can be a large contributor to this pollution. In-land and urban tourism can also contribute to marine plastic pollution, with huge amounts of plastic pollution ending up in rivers and getting carried into the oceans.
Plastic pollution negatively affects visual attractiveness of destinations. Holiday makers are looking for pristine beaches, unpolluted nature and cultural places whereas during peak tourist season, marine litter in the Mediterranean region was found to increase by up to 40%.
Plastic pollution contributes to pollution of soil and water, affects animal, plant and human health, and leads to biodiversity loss.
The world is producing more than 400 million tons of plastic. Half of this is designed for single use.
Much of the plastic used in tourism is made to be thrown away and often can’t be recycled, leading to large amounts of pollution.
Source: Unsplash.com (2021).
Tourism industry suffers from the consequences of plastic pollution, but at the same time tourism industry generates plastic pollution. Tourism industry has then an important role to play in contributing to the solution. Moreover, many destinations are economically dependent on tourism industry, plastic pollution threatens their future income.
The pollution from plastic materials is a threatening problem, especially for the tourism sector and it cannot be solved by one single effort. The cumulative effort of different stakeholders with a systematic approach through the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative can be a step towards solving the problem.