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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.


  • 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. 

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.

  • More than 99% of plastics are derived from oil, gas and coal — all of which are dirty, non-renewable resources.  
  • If current trends continue, plastic could account for 20% of the world’s total oil consumption by 2050.  
  • The process of extracting, transporting and refining those fossil fuels, then manufacturing plastic, pollutes billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases.
  • If growth in plastic production and incineration continue, cumulative emissions by 2050 will be over 56 gigatons of CO2e, or 10–13% of the total remaining global carbon budget.  

The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative aims to stop plastic ending up as pollution while also reducing the amount of new plastic that needs to be produced.

To realise this vision, tourism companies destinations commit to eliminate the plastic items they don’t need; innovate so all plastics they do need are designed to be safely reused, recycled, or composted; and circulate everything they use to keep it in the economy and out of the environment.

Find out how to get involved


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