How to reduce plastic waste on holiday

Plastic waste

The stats on plastic waste are staggering. 8 million pieces of plastic enter the ocean every day, and this is expected to rise significantly. The impact on the travel industry is huge, causing pollution, degradation and wildlife death, yet it also is part of the problem. It generates a huge amount of single-use plastic. Phasing out single-use plastic and rethinking how the material is best used within such a diverse and global industry such as tourism is incredibly complex, but movement is happening. 

And it’s not just the industry that can make meaningful changes to reduce the amount of plastic waste used; we can too. We all know the mantra ‘reduce, reuse, repair, recycle’ and the same is also true when planning and going on holiday. However it can also be a lot harder to stick to, particularly on planes and when travelling somewhere where it is inadvisable to drink the tap water, so a little bit of prior prep can be useful.

Before you go


Either decant your own toiletries into smaller reusable bottles or take bars or zero waste products. It’s also worth checking whether your accommodation offers refillable toiletries, meaning you don’t have to take anything extra. There’s also the option to make your own plastic free toiletries too. 

If you need to get sunscreen, make sure you buy a brand with no microplastics in

Take a bamboo toothbrush and razor, and make sure any wipes or cotton buds are biodegradable. (Better still just take a flannel).

Put all your toiletries into a clear washbag to save having to pick up a disposable see through bag at the airport check in. 


Plastic water bottles are the biggest source of waste created by tourists so take a refillable water bottle (and pop it in your take on lugguage too). If you need filtered water, a LifeStraw bottle will do the job. 

Take a reusable coffee cup, metal straw and travel cutlery if you think you may need to use them.

If you are camping, take some tupperware and beeswax wraps for leftover food.

Clothes and equipment 

Try to borrow equipment and clothes that you may only use once, like ski or diving kit.

If you want to invest in kit, look for sustainable brands such as Finisterre or Patagonia. Good on You list other brands worth checking out. Better still, buy secondhand through apps such as ebay, Vinted or Depop. 

Take a canvas bag or two.

Swap tampons and pads for a menstrual cup or period pants.If you have some spare space, Pack for a Purpose lists essential supplies needed by communities around the world.

While you’re there

Avoid picking up in-flight kits or hotel mini toiletries. 

Most airports have water refill stations and the Refill App highlights global locations with water refill stations. 

Ask flight attendants to refill your own bottle instead of giving you yet another plastic cup. 

Think before you buy any products. If you want to buy handicrafts, buy locally-produced goods. 

Feedback to your accommodation on their waste amounts. If it’s minimal tell them too!

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