Fair Trade Tourism will roll out a campaign against single-use plastics this year following its No Time to Waste conference.
The one-day conference highlighted the damage caused by plastic waste to marine life, showcased waste management best-practices and urged tourism businesses to take responsibility for minimising waste impacts on the environment.
Opening the conference, Fair Trade Tourism Managing Director Jane Edge said that 8-10 million tons of plastic – equal to the weight of 700 billion plastic bottles – end up in the ocean each year. “Plastic particles outnumber plankton in the ocean by 6 to 1 while over 1 million sea birds and over 100 000 mammals die every year as a result of plastic. Turtles are particularly susceptible to death as they mistake floating plastic bags for jellyfish,” she said.
Death through entanglement, starvation due to ingesting plastic instead of food and the absorption of toxic chemicals from plastics which bioaccumulate through the food chain, are having a devastating impact on marine life, said Edge.
Sounding the alarm, she said it was estimated that by 2050 the amount of plastic in the ocean would exceed 1,000 million tons, outweighing ocean fish. “We cannot allow wasteful practices to destroy the environment that our tourism industry depends on. We need to be part of the solution.” Tourism delegates at the conference pledged to eliminate straws and reduce the use of other single-use plastics such as plastic bags, wet wipes, ear buds, condiment sachets, toiletry containers and cling wrap. Many also pledged to replace plastic bottled water with replenishable glass or steel containers. Spier Hotel showcased its achievement of a 98 percent recycling ratio of total waste produced on-site while Vineyard Hotel pledged to increase its recycling ratio from 95 percent to 98 percent.
“Beach cleanup programmes report that bottle tops, ear buds and straws are the most prolific plastic pollutants picked up along South Africa’s beaches. The tourism sector can do much to reduce this impact by refusing to make these products available and educating guests about their environmental damage,” said Edge. This year Fair Trade Tourism plans to roll out a plastic reduction campaign across the tourism sector with the help of WWF-SA, the African Marine Waste Network and Two Oceans Aquarium. The campaign will encourage tourism businesses to eliminate plastics that are considered unnecessary and particularly damaging to the environment, and to improve their recycling efforts. Fair Trade Tourism has already begun engaging with plastic recyclers to improve the recycling of plastic waste generated by the tourism sector.