Practical ways to reduce plastic waste on your Asia holiday

18th April 2018 | by Guest author


Here’s a sobering statistic: around the world, one million plastic bottles of water are bought every single minute. Here’s another - if you placed all the bottles bought in 2016 end-to-end, they would reach more than halfway to the sun. And less than half of them were recycled. The majority went to landfill or into the ocean, where they pose a major hazard to marine life and, along with other plastic waste, eventually end up in our own food cycle.

Plastic waste, and the damage it’s causing to the environment, is all over the news at the moment. It’s fantastic that this issue is finally getting the attention it needs. The latest news about a plastic-eating enzyme has even given us hope for a solution to the waste that’s already circulating, and more people and businesses are taking matters into their own hands and making the effort to reduce their plastic waste.

But however diligently we ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle’ at home, plastic in Asia can pose more of a challenge. The tap water can’t always be trusted, so it’s unsurprising that many travellers choose bottled water. Much of the region’s famous street-food is served in plastic bags and containers. Add in the prevalence of miniature hotel toiletries, and the fact many Asian countries lack the facilities to recycle effectively (in some island nations especially) and you can see how travel-related plastic waste can lead to dramatic problems.

We’ve seen the problems for ourselves in Asia, and we believe it’s vital that everyone involved in the travel industry, from providers to guests, takes the initiative in reducing their plastic waste.

What is Selective Asia doing to reduce plastic waste in Asia?

In 2017, our Destination Specialist Annie set us a challenge: to reduce our plastic bottle usage in Asia by 50% in the year ahead. Now - if there’s anything the team at Selective Asia enjoys anywhere near as much as they enjoy travelling, it’s a good challenge. As a result, we introduced our One Bottle at a Time scheme.

This project involves working with our local partners to develop a system whereby clients can refill their water bottles at key hotels, and from portable water canisters in the vehicles we use. It’s one heck of an undertaking, and is easier in some countries than others, but we’re certain it’s the right thing to do, so we’re rolling it out as quickly as possible.

(Click here for the latest progress on our One Bottle at a Time project)

In addition, anyone who books with us will receive a 15% discount on a reusable Water-to-Go bottle, and we’ll also make a donation equal to 15% of the cost to the charity Water-to-Go bottles have a filtration system that eliminates over 99.9% of all microbiological contaminants from any (non-salt) water source.

Each filter lasts about three months, so you can refill from the tap throughout your trip in safety. Water-to-Go have even admitted that you could use the bottles to safely filter your own urine, if you were in dire straits. We’re not ones to dictate what you should and shouldn’t drink, but we’re confident that won’t be necessary on a Selective Asia holiday! 

We hope that you’ll join us in our mission to reduce plastic bottle usage on our Asia tours. If you’re interested in other ways you can contribute to this urgent situation, here are a few more tips on how you can reduce your plastic consumption while travelling:

Ways to cut your own plastic usage when travelling

  • Pack a couple of lightweight foldable bags to take with you. They can be used for everything from shopping to carrying wet towels, and can usually be washed, so will potentially last you for years.
  • Say ‘no thanks’ to plastic straws, stirrers, cups and bags wherever possible. These are some of the most harmful disposables that find their way into the environment, and are ubiquitous in restaurants, cafes and bars around the world.
  • If you do take a fancy to the hotel toiletries, you can leave empty bottles out to be refilled - there’s no need to put them in the bin. If you bring your own, consider taking empties home for correct recycling, or use your own refillable mini-bottles.
  • Look for responsible accommodation and providers that have a policy of trying to reduce their plastic waste. Make sure you tell them one of your reasons for booking with them was because of that policy, as it will encourage them to stick with it.
  • Use a reusable bottle. Hey, we know where you can get one - and for a discount, too! And if you can’t do without your morning cup of joe, then a reusable coffee cup is also handy to take. The vast majority of takeaway coffee cups can’t be recycled yet, and just imagine how many of them are bought and discarded every day.
  • You can make a difference even before you arrive in your destination. Bring your own snacks to the airport with you (we love EcoSnackWraps for protecting our picnic food) so you don’t need to buy plastic-tastic (not to mention pricey!) food at the airport after going through security. You can also pack your own headphones to avoid using the plastic-wrapped ones provided by the airline.