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2021 Plastics Pollution - Undergraduates

2021 Take Action on Plastic Pollution Challenge (Undergraduates)

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The UNWTO World Tourism Students League, run within the UNWTO Academy creates an innovative environment to empower and motivate youth to get involved with the tourism sector and participate in this world students tourism league. The participants get real-time experience from the sector by creating and presenting innovative solutions for the challenges that the sector is facing nowadays. All challenges are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This specific challenge is placing the focus on plastic pollution which is addressed mainly within the framework of SDG 12 on Responsible Consumption and Production but also in other interconnected goals such as SDG 13, SDG 14 and SDG 15, respectively on climate action and the protection of marine and terrestrial ecosystems. You can learn about the SDGs by visiting this page.

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing unprecedented socio-economic impacts and at the same time is demonstrating the crucial role that sustainability plays in societies, for all business models and individual behaviors. Taking care of nature is therefore key to a prosperous and sustainable future for all. At the same time, hygiene measures undertaken to tackle the pandemic have increased the demand for disposable plastic items with masks and gloves already being found in the natural environment of tourism destinations.

Plastic pollution is one of the major environmental challenges of our time, and tourism has an important role to play in contributing to the solution. On the one hand, much of the plastics used in tourism are made to be thrown away and often cannot be recycled, leading to large amounts of pollution. On the other hand, clean landscapes and coastlines and the possibility to observe wildlife are key elements of tourism destinations and therefore should be protected from plastic pollution. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more complex to use plastics sustainably in many destinations and tourism businesses.



Develop a strategic plan for an accommodation provider wanting to address plastic pollution as part of the COVID-19 recovery measures with the objective to accelerate sustainable consumption and production patterns.  


  • Was there a good understanding of the problem of plastic pollution and what accommodation providers could do to be part of the solution?
  • Was there a strategy for the destination addressing sustainability before COVID-19 and what would be the benefits of prioritizing action on plastic pollution as part of the recovery?
  • Which are the areas of the business where most problematic and unnecessary plastics are in use and would their elimination affect the customer experience?
  • What innovations and collaborations could be put in place to integrate reuse models?
  • Could the accommodation provider take additional actions to fight plastic pollution besides elimination of problematic and unnecessary plastics and the integration of reuse models?


  1. Get your Team together – remember that you can add 1 Team member to work on the solution with you (total 6) and you will have to present the whole Team in your solution
  2. Download the Challenge document (attached in pdf) and read through it carefully (it may contain information that is not on this form here)
  3. Review the resources provided under section 5 (see full challlenge  - pdf download).
  4. For consultation purposes, get familiar with the resources available in the repository of tools and resources of the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative[1].
  5. Identify an accommodation provider. Describe briefly their activity and whether they already have a sustainability strategy including elements connected to plastics pollution. Indicate why you have selected such accommodation provider.
  6. Discuss with your colleagues about the performance of the destination[2] in terms of plastics management, reflect on the causes of problems, identify opportunities for improvement as well as barriers, and think about innovative solutions that could be applied to reduce and reuse plastics. You may consider undertaking some interviews with key stakeholders.
  7. Identify a Mission statement which reinforces the existing Vision of the accommodation provider (its purpose) with elements connected to tackling plastic pollution.
  8. Develop a SWOT analysis based on your discussions and research undertaken to assess the elimination of problematic and unnecessary plastics and the integration of reuse models by the accommodation provider.
  9. Identify 1-3 strategic solutions that you would like to present to the accommodation provider, as they have potential to trigger significant impact. Please note that the solutions should be potentially implemented/actionable within a timeframe of 12 months. E.g. a solution requiring changes in legislation to take place should be discarded as it would not be possible to implement within 12 months.
  10. Provide recommendations for the implementation of the priority solutions within the next 12 months, including references to collaborations that would potentially need to be established.

[1] Information regarding the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative is provided under section 5-3 of this document.

[2] You can identify a destination in your country or somewhere else.


Your submission will be evaluated by the Jury according to the following criteria:

  • Innovation and originality 
  • Implementation model and feasibility (e.g. teamwork, preparatory steps and alignment to target audience)
  • Impact, accuracy and effective contribution to solve the challenge/alignment with the Challenge
  • Awareness/Contribution to the SDGs
  • Quality and Consistency of presentation design

The judges evaluate these aspects individually from 1 to 10. The score given to the team is the sum of the scores of each jury member given for each aspect. The maximum score for this specific challenge (Undergraduates category) is 50 points per submission.



During the process to prepare the solution to each challenge UNWTO will organize a mentoring online session with a selected expert with the aim to provide the teams with relevant insights on the topics of the challenge.

NOTE: UNWTO will post the dates, schedule and logistics for the mentoring online sessions in advance in the Students’ League website, on your personal Dashboard. Kindly note that the attendance of one member of each participating team is mandatory.




Plastic pollution is one of the major environmental challenges of our time, and tourism has an important role to play in contributing to the solution. 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. The production of more than 300 million tonnes of new plastic every year also depletes natural resources and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

In order to tackle the challenges, we need to define the problem properly. The facts below can provide a comprehensive view of where we stand and how we need to step forward:

  • Each year, an additional eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the world’s oceans where it is responsible for the deaths of up to one million sea birds, 100,000 sea mammals, marine turtles and countless fish.
  • With 80 per cent of all tourism taking place in coastal areas, plastic from the sector can be a large contributor to this pollution.
  • During peak tourist season, marine litter in the Mediterranean region was found to increase by up to 40 per cent.
  • 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.
  • If current trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.




  • Your package of submission requires to include a strategic plan for an accommodation provider to eliminate problematic and unnecessary plastics from its operations and implement reuse models.
  • The plan shall not exceed 7 pages, as per the recommended structure[1]:
    • Executive Summary
    • Introduction: Presentation of the team and process followed to create the strategic plan
    • Profile of the accommodation provider and the context where it operates
    • SWOT analysis (one table combining elimination and reuse or 2 tables, as preferred)
    • Mission statement
    • Strategic solutions
    • Recommendations for implementation
  • Your submission package will be one compressed ZIP file (the ZIP file name must contain the name of your Institution/University).
  • Please upload your package of submission through your access on the UNWTO Students’ League Platform. Only one solution can be uploaded through one of the personal member accesses.
  • The Teams will have 6 weeks to answer the Challenge. THE DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION IS 27 JUNE 23’59 CEST,
  • The language for the submission is English.

[1] Please note that the structure can be adjusted to the needs of the Team submitting as long as it does not exceed 7 pages. All necessary references to consulted documents or other sources should be included as footnotes within the maximum number of 7 pages allowed.

Jury Members

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2021 Plastics Pollution 11-13

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