We are all increasingly aware of the shocking environmental impact of single use plastic. In this article, our Head of Sustainable Travel, Alice Bayly, shares a little bit more about our efforts to reduce plastic pollution in Asia.
The airing of Blue Panet II and other TV programmes such as ‘Drowning in Plastic’ broadcast earlier this month on BBC One are raising the public profile of the ‘plastic’ issue in unprecedented way and powering a wave of momentum that appears to have the potential to create real change. Corporations, Councils and Governments across the world are being pushed into action to tackle the growth of plastic waste and its management. Perhaps what is particularly exciting is the increased awareness that this is an issue that even individuals have the power to do something about. In some places whole communities have come together to make a stand against the blight of plastic waste – Penzance became Britain’s first plastic-free town in December 2017 by uniting against straws, bottles, takeaway boxes and disposable forks. Over 300 other communities around the country are now following suit. And all of us in England can claim to have played a part in the 86% reduction in the use of single use plastic bags since the introduction of the 5p charge in 2015. I read this week that record number of plastic bottles are now being recycled in the UK (even if this does amount to just over half of the 13 billion used each year in this country.)
However, despite our best efforts at home, our good intentions often fall by the wayside when we go on holiday. And without some thought and planning it’s easy to be part of the plastic problem when travelling in Asia. It’s important to stay hydrated when you’re out and about seeing the sights under a hot sun but all too often this means accepting multiple small, single use plastic bottles of drinking water. Experience Travel Group is aware that we don’t help matters by keeping a steady supply of these bottles in our vehicles for our clients.
We’d been wondering how to tackle the issue for some time; we wanted to find a way to reduce our negative impact on destinations in Asia that we love to experience the best of, but we also needed to ensure that we and our clients have access to safe drinking water at all times during trips. Then we came across UK company, Water-to-Go, who have created a reusable bottle with a difference. It contains a filter that eliminates more than 99.9% of microbiological contaminants, so it can be filled and re-filled with water from any non-saltwater source.
We decided to trial these bottles by using them ourselves on our trips abroad and by offering them to a selection of our clients. We sent complimentary Water-to-Go bottles to 112 clients travelling to Sri Lanka or Borneo in August and September. In addition, ETG staff took the bottles on their work trips and holidays during that time. On a two-week holiday each person could easily consume 42 single use, plastic bottles of water. We estimate therefore that this trial had the potential to reduce plastic waste to the tune of around 5,000 bottles!
Now that all our ‘triallists’ are back from their ETG travels we are in the process of evaluating the trial. We’re collating feedback from staff, clients, our ETG office in Sri Lanka and our in-country partner in Borneo. There were definitely some issues with leaking bottles which questions whether the Water2Go product itself is the right one for us, but notwithstanding this the response, particularly to the idea of taking action in some way, has been positive. We were delighted to receive this email for example, from two of clients, Rachael and Frances, who travelled round Borneo in August:
“Whilst in the rainforest the importance of fighting the plastic pollution became very apparent – we saw a Macau Monkey in the wild surrounding by plastic that has washed up on the shores of the river where they scavenge and also a baby silver tree monkey who had found himself a plastic ring from the top of a used plastic water bottle. If there was ever a significant moment in my life that has made me really think about recycling and the use of consumable plastic items, it was this; innocent animals potentially suffering from mistakenly consuming human waste.
Since our return we’ve started to research quite a lot about the plastic pollution which has made us even more passionate about playing our part.
We think the Water2Go bottles are fantastic, we are extremely grateful to Experience Travel for introducing us to them, we will be renewing our filters and ensuring we pack our bottles on our next venture. If there was ever a gift that was going to make an impact, this is it. It’s a great choice and for me, clearly demonstrates that ETG is much more than a travel company.”
Feedback like this has spurred us on to continue working towards reducing our contribution to plastic waste in the countries we love to travel to and love sharing with our clients. It’s a logistical challenge that will involve commitment from staff, our clients, and our partners in the 10 countries in which we operate. But, as Rachel Yates, who secured plastic-free status for Penzance, has said: “We can’t do this overnight, but you have to do it step by step; otherwise it’s too big to even think about. Hopefully, we’re laying the foundations for something really sustainable.” Watch this space!
For more information about Experience Travel Group’s sustainable travel initiatives, please feel free to get in touch with Alice via [email protected]. To see our portfolio of holidays, please click here.