Eliminate. Innovate. Circulate. Strategies from the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative.
Panel Discussion - ITB Berlin Now - 9 March 2021, 13:00-13:30 CET
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The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative (GTPI) provides a framework to tackle plastic pollution and support the tourism sector towards building a circular economy of plastics. 61 leading tourism companies, suppliers, business associations, NGOs, consultancies and certification schemes are the signatories to the GTPI.
On the occasion of its first anniversary, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation co-organized the panel discussion on “Eliminate.Innovate.Circulate. Strategies from the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative” at ITB Berlin Now. The panelists discussed how addressing plastic waste and pollution, building on circular principles, can support a responsible recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and shared strategies and actions that they are implementing to achieve their commitments. New signatories (15 organizations) were also welcomed to the initiative.
The main takeways of the panel discussion are:
Elimination of unnecessary and problematic plastics:
- It is possible to eliminate without compromising the guests experience.
- It is important to be mindful of the waste infrastructure available when selecting alternatives to plastic products.
- Attention: Polylactic acid (PLA) compostables are not suitable for backyard composting, they require industrial composting facilities.
- To avoid unintended environmental impacts of alternatives to plastic products, it is important to consider the results of life cycle assessments.
The integration of reuse models:
- Reuse models can increase safety as they allow hotels to control sanitization procedures (e.g. refillable water bottles, shampoo dispensers).
- Single use plastics are not sanitization measures in themselves and they need to be sanitized.
- Working with local supply chains allows for the development of take back programmes that can result in the creation of local jobs (e.g. local fishermen supply fish in reusable coolers).
The engagement of suppliers and waste managers:
- There are plastic products “beyond the usual suspects” for which post consumer recycled plastic content could be increased (e.g. TVs or AC units).
- The empowerment of purchasing teams is key to avoid bringing in redundant products and reducing plastics at the source.
- Reducing waste is essential as in many tourism destinations, there is no segregation or recycling taking place.
- Minimizing plastics and waste contribute to reducing our carbon footprint and protect ecosystems with carbon sequestration potential.
Communicating progress to all stakeholders, including travelllers:
- Making information on progress tackling plastic pollution is key for other tourism stakeholders to take the first steps.
- Consumers are likely to choose more sustainable accommodations as the pandemic has amped their perception of the importance of a healthy environment.
- The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative is a community of practice where those interested in sustainability can learn, exchange and progress.
- The influence that the tourism sector can play in other sectors, especially in destinations such as islands, should not be underestimated.