We’ve seen enough dystopian fictional movies about how the world would end because of alien invasions, pandemics, and zombie apocalypses. However, we can laugh it off and say that we would know when something like this would happen. Can we say the same for plastic pollution that is slowly but steadily gripping the Earth? Because of the slow creeping effect of plastics pollution, consumers are being blindsided to the negative after-effects of plastics if we don’t do plastics recycling. It is happening around us and we can no longer laugh it off!
What are the issues that plastics can give us?
Plastics are polymeric hydrocarbon chains that are very versatile in nature and function. However, their drawback is that they decompose extremely slowly and there are no efficient ways for their disposal. Burning them just releases toxic gases which can cause more harm to the environment and the people. There are some plastics that even leach out into water or food that they carry and can be carcinogenic.
Why go plastic-free?
Going plastic-free is extremely important right now. The world has already seen enough clutter and plastic production and it is just not stopping. That is our first clue: why doesn’t the production stop? This is because the demand is high and constant. Tackling the demand issue is key to solving the whole problem of excessive plastic. Consumer excesses together with continual bombarding of advertisements to buy are driving demand.
We know plastics can be extremely convenient thanks to their versatile benefits and properties. The one time they come very handy has to be during traveling. While traveling, we would want easy-to-use and disposable plastics that add convenience to the journey. However, this just adds to the ever-growing stockpile of plastic wastes on our planet.
In fact, Australia has been the pioneer for a movement called Plastic-Free July. The foundation initially operated from Australia but now is reputed almost globally. It focused on rallying people to take steps to prevent plastic waste generation. Also, July is the month people often travel, visit beaches and exotic places due to the summers. Hence, the amount of waste generated can be cumbersome. Single-use plastics actually lie at the heart of the problem and this can be bypassed by a few baby steps in the right direction.
What are a few ways we can go plastic-free during travel?
1. Ensure your toiletries are sustainable.
One of the major problems while traveling is that the toiletries that you use would mostly be made of plastics. How often have you bought miniature sachets and tubes of toothpaste, shampoos, conditioners, and portable deodorants for easy travel? Many of us do that and prefer it because you can throw it easily once the trip is over. However, imagine about 1 million people doing it every day and the waste generated just sums up to a staggering amount with this practice.
You can eliminate this aspect during travel. There are various sustainable alternatives to plastic toiletries during travel. Here is a list of the necessities you would carry and their environmentally friendly alternatives.
While toothpaste is really handy, there are sustainable alternatives to this in the form of tooth powder that comes in reusable bottles. You can also purchase zero-waste tooth tablets. These are self-foaming tooth tablets that you pop in your mouth with a bit of water such that it foams. One pill per brushing session would be ample and this is extremely handy too.
Then you can brush using your toothbrush and clean your teeth. This comes packed in glass bottles that you can reuse and causes no waste. It won’t leak or spill in your bag and is actually more convenient. All you have to do is carry this small bottle around and at the end of your travels, you can reuse the bottle or recycle it. Glass Recycling is often used for these small bottles and is sustainable.
- Shampoo and Conditioners:
Companies have often advertised these bottles in extremely attractive shapes and colors. They now advertise miniature versions of the same thing for travel and people flock to buy the same! However, while it may seem convenient and cool for you to buy this, this generates so much plastic waste. People may say plastics recycling works here, it actually doesn’t. Again, you’d have issues with it spilling and leaking.
For travel purposes, rather than buying bottles, the more sustainable purchase that could be made is buying shampoo bars and conditioning bars. These last longer than bottles, are convenient to carry, and are more compact than bottles. Hence, it is an ideal carry item during travel. You can store it in a tin box and use it whenever needed.
This is a must-have as you never know when you’d have access to good bathing facilities during travel. However, the negative impacts of deos are quite numerous. The plastic nozzles, the encasings, the harmful aerosols that affect the environment all make it contribute to the ever-growing waste in the community.
Like shampoo and conditioner bars, there are deo bars that are long-lasting, compact, and can be stored conveniently in tin containers. This would reduce your waste generation during travel
- Sustainable make-up items and hygiene products.
Switching to biodegradable cotton swabs, washable makeup removing cloth pads, and avoiding the use of plastic cotton swabs would be extremely helpful.
A majority of them have also now switched from using plastic pads to washable menstrual pads or menstrual cups. This cuts down a huge chunk of waste generated and benefits the world. While traveling, in case you do not find segregated waste bins, you can dispose of these without much guilt. This would not have been the case if you had plastics, hence this step is necessary and important.
Also, if you stay in hotels or lodges, opt out of the mini toiletries that they provide. They use a lot of plastic and avoiding their use helps in cutting back demand. If even out of 50,000 people, 3000 people did this, a huge amount of waste produced would be eliminated. Buying makeup should be kept in mind with cosmetics recycling principles.
2. Hold a lot of reusable bags
This is a crucial step as traveling generally means buying a lot of snacks and shopping. Rather than availing of the store-provided plastic bags, use cloth bags that you packed. This helps in cost-cutting and you would not be contributing to the plastics generated. Plastics recycling can also be done here.
3. Hold your own reusable cutlery and storage boxes.
We know snacking is highly unavoidable while traveling and sightseeing. However, wherever you can, try packing food in tupperware or reusable boxes to avoid waste. In fast-food restaurants that give disposable cutlery, try to use your own reusable cutlery that you can pack. Remember the demand and supply logic; only if the demand is curbed, the supply reduces.
Also, avoid takeouts and parcels during traveling, prefer dine-in services wherever possible, to avoid extra packaging. Avoid plastic straws completely and invest in stainless-steel straws and washable cups to engage in zero waste solutions.
4. Use refillable water bottles preferably with in-built filters.
It is very easy to instantaneously buy plastic water bottles for consumption from shops, however, that can lead to a lot of waste. Hence, buying your own water bottles helps in not just ensuring you have drinking water accessible to yourself all the time, but also helps in minimizing waste generation. If you have glass water bottles with filters, you can fill your water bottle with water from any place and glass recycling can be done.
It could be a bit on the expensive side. Some people also rely on asking people for refilling their bottles for drinking water and would be willing to pay also. This is another sustainable step that can be taken.
Plastics have been the plague of Earth for generations now. Ignoring all the signs and implications of plastics, we have come a long way from being unaware of our choices to now making proper eco-conscious decisions, even while traveling! Plastics Recycling has been an option but that is a slow and cumbersome process.
Practicing the above solutions may be a bit of a hassle at the beginning. You have to pack and maintain everything in your travel bag as these can’t be disposed of. However, in the long run, it would feel seamless and natural to do the needful. Such zero waste solutions cut back on costs too.
Why is brand protection important for manufacturers? (Brand protection refers to brand image.) For manufacturers, encouraging the use of sustainable materials or recycled materials within their products also helps brand protection as it promotes a brand image of being a manufacturer that cares for the environment. In addition, by encouraging such use of materials, manufacturers create a demand for recycled plastics collection. This, in turn, supports the development of financially sustainable recycling infrastructure solutions for plastics recycling.
Buying sustainable products gets you to value for money. Also, buying plastic goods means the same expenses recur before every trip. This would be avoided completely when you travel with reusable items.
July being a plastic-free month should be able to challenge and coax you to take bold steps this month during traveling. If you get comfortable, you might even make it a lifestyle choice! This may seem futile and you may wonder what significance would one person doing this have. However, collectively, like you, if many people did this, the plastic generated would lessen and the world would be benefitted more. The key is to completely reduce demand, the plastic generation in the world would dwindle automatically and save the environment!