How to avoid plastic waste when you travel


With supermarket chains phasing out plastic bags and campaigns such as Plastic Free July, the issue of reducing plastic waste in our everyday lives has become much more mainstream.  We’re encouraged by efforts to minimize our throwaway mentality but what about reducing plastic use when we travel?

Reducing or eliminating plastics is not straightforward, when so many products are packaged in plastic, including a basic necessity such as water.  While it can prove to be a challenge, especially when travelling to regions where plastic can be ever-present, there are simple steps you can take to limit your use.

Here are some ways you can be kinder to the planet by reducing your single-use plastic when travelling.

8 ways to reduce your plastic use overseas

1. Don’t buy bottled water.

Instead, bring a reusable drink bottle. You can upgrade your reusable bottle to one with an integrated filtration system or carry purification tablets, which can be handy when travelling to countries with low drinking water standards or when heading on a backcountry or remote expedition. A good purification system is a great investment in helping the planet in the long run, and also for your future travel.  Fortunately, on many of our treks, we provide boiled water, so you can fill up on the go and avoid having to purchase plastic bottles of water on a hike, which can add up in cost.

Did you know around 1 million plastic bottles are bought per minute? Photo: Alan Carrillo

2. Avoid using plastic bags by packing light reusable bags.

Do you tend to throw your wet or dirty clothes in a plastic bag when you travel? Why not opt for a dry bag instead, which is durable and waterproof. You can also bring along a textile bag for the occasional shopping splurge.

Bring along your own bag when you hit the shops. Photo: Joe Kennedy.

3. Switch your travel toothbrush for a biodegradable bamboo one.

In Australia, more than 30 million toothbrushes are used and disposed of each year, contributing to almost 1000 tonnes of landfill each year, so imagine that on a global scale! A biodegradable toothbrush handle made from sustainably harvested wood makes for an eco-friendlier alternative to plastic toothbrushes.

4. Don’t use a disposable razor.

Instead, switch to a safety razor with a replaceable blade. Just remember to pack this in your check-in not carry-on! When you think about it, disposable razors are packed in a layer of plastic, coupled with a plastic handle and guard, and are only designed for a couple of uses.

5. Bring your own thermos cup for your coffee order.

Using a reusable coffee cup avoids disposable cups ending up in landfills. Better yet, dine in when you stop by a café and enjoy your coffee in a mug.

6. Don’t buy travel size toiletries every time you travel.

Steer clear from purchasing small sized liquid soaps, shampoos and conditioners whenever you take a trip. Instead, reuse and refill the small bottles you already have with the products you have at home and simply label the contents. Otherwise, get a set of reusable containers to refill forever – you can find glass and metal alternatives to plastic travel containers as well.

7. Help clean wilderness trails of plastic.

Join our 10 Pieces initiative on our treks in Nepal, Bhutan, Peru, as well as our Mount Rinjani and Mount Kilimanjaro summit treks to help beat plastic pollution. By collecting rubbish on trails and bringing it back to camp for proper disposal, you are helping take the issue of global litter in your own hands. The initiative also helps highlight the consequences of litter on wildlife and tourism to mountain communities.

8. Skip carrying chewing gum.

Did you know that chewing on gum is essentially chewing plastic? Gum is made from a synthetic rubber which contain polyethylene polymers – listed as ‘gum base’ – and it contributes to 100,000 tonnes of plastic pollution every year. Avoid it altogether – and its disposable packaging – and opt for a toothpick or mints that are packed in a paper box or metal tin.

Along with our responsible travel practices, you can make sustainable choices that leave a smaller footprint in the places you visit. Read our latest initiatives in Nepal where we’ve gone plastic-free!

Looking for more inspiration?

Download our free Thoughtful Traveller ebook and learn how you can be a responsible traveller.

What are some ways you reduce your plastic use? Let us know in the comments below.

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