Addressing pollution from single-use plastic products: A Life Cycle Approach – Key messages for tourism businesses
In March 2019, UN Environment Programme was requested by the Fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly to make available existing information on the full life cycle environmental impacts of plastic products compared to products of alternative materials. In answer to this, the UNEP-hosted Life Cycle Initiative conducted a series of meta-analyses of LCA studies on single-use plastic products and their alternatives.
This document summarises, from the perspective of the tourism sector, the most important findings of the Life Cycle Initiative’s report series. It highlights the role of reuse models to eliminate the use of unnecessary and problematic plastic items, outlines the aspects upon which engagement throughout the value chain is required to spur innovation, and reinforces the need for context-based approaches to ensure plastics are circulated back into the economy rather than thrown away after use.
Focusing on plastic bottles, plastic cups, plastic bags, take-away food packaging and tableware, it supports tourism businesses and destinations to identify the most appropriate options for their context.
The document puts forward eight principles for action towards eliminating pollution from single-use plastic products in tourism businesses’:
- Reduce the use of single-use products regardless of the material (e.g., glass, paper, plastic, etc.).
- Promote reusable products and systems in your tourism business – the most sustainable product is the multi-use product.
- Use tourist and staff-targeted strategies and communications to ensure products are continuously reused.
- Aim to decrease the environmental footprint of production (through reuse, demanding products with high recycled content, and partnering with suppliers engaging in sustainable production methods)
- Engage with suppliers and relevant actors in the value chain to procure products that are designed to be fit for purpose, durable, and functional.
- Ensure that resource-efficient washing technologies are in place.
- Establish good waste separation systems in your tourism business to ensure products receive proper end-of-life treatment.
- Know your context when making decisions related to single-use plastic products (Cultural norms, production methods, waste management technology infrastructure available, tourist behaviors, regulatory framework).