I was walking along this Thailand beach recently and was distressed at how much litter I gathered up in one short 20-minute walk. Beautiful sand was covered with the detritus of broken bottles, glass, plastic bags and more. I found a plastic bag and had soon filled it with crap.
It made me reflect on how much trash we travellers create. In the Maldives, Bluepeace estimates that each traveller produces 3.5 kilograms (7.7 pounds) of rubbish a day.
Globally, eight million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans. That is the same as five grocery bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world. In 2025, the annual input is estimated to double to ten bags full of plastic per foot of coastline.
Plastic takes a long time to break down, gets eaten by sea creatures and traps and entangles birds. It literally is killing our environment. This is why more and more beaches have swathes of trash along them:
In 2014, there were 1.61 billion tourist arrivals. As I walked along the beach, I reflected on what it would like if each of us produced just one piece of trash a day during our vacation. We could collectively leave ten billion pieces of trash over a week’s vacation. We have to stop this growth!
- Travel to destinations that are tackling rubbish actively. Switzerland has banned plastic bags in some cantons for years, France has banned plastic cups, plates and cutlery . Sweden is encouraging people to ‘throwaway less by cutting taxes on repairing household items from bicycles to washing machines
- Look for eco hotels and resorts that focus on recycling, reducing and re using. Make sure they are actually doing things in a meaningful way. I have come across “eco-resorts” that merely use the word as an advertising by line.
- Buy less. Do you really need that gift, souvenir of piece of clothing?
- Refuse plastic bags. I now know the word for “no plastic” in a dozen languages! Carry your own bag and combine purchases into fewer bags. I have a fold up bag which turns into a very handy carry bag.
- Use recycling facilities when you see them
- Take your own litter with you
- Pick up other’s litter when you are hiking or on beaches
- Carry your own drink bottle and refill it when you can
- Write to government officials in the places you want to visit encouraging them to invest in sustainable practices for their communities
I would like to walk down a trash less beach. You?