We are pleased to present our next Master Divers Life contest blog by contestant Matthew Lyne
How to use less plastic when travelling
Going on holiday is one of life’s greatest pleasures, it’s something you look forward to for months or even years beforehand and have lasting memories for years afterwards. These memories can be great such as sights you’ve seen, people you’ve met or animals you’ve encountered, or sometimes you may have some bad memories such as if the transport breaks down or the mosquito’s decide to use you as an all inclusive buffet. Generally though the good outweighs the bad and you have a fantastic time. That’s been my general view of travelling and I find that most negatives are minor. However there’s one experience in particular that’s stuck with me and that’s when I went snorkelling and around me was thousands upon thousands of pieces of plastic. It was in startling contrast to the beautiful corals and fish underneath and left me feeling awful that such a beautiful ecosystem was ruined by plastic pollution.
Taken during a dive, a starfish sits next to a discarded water bottle
Everybody has read that plastic is awful, and many individuals and organisations are making the switch to plastic free alternatives which is fantastic however when on holiday it appears that many of these commitments stop at the airport. The general attitude seems to be that it’s too hard to avoid things like plastic bottles when you can’t drink tap water, or that the little bit of plastic waste on holiday can’t do that much harm. Whilst it is true that it can be harder to avoid plastic abroad, it definitely isn’t unreasonable and everyone should do their part. With estimates at one million plastic bottles sold every minute globally and plastic bags at double that it’s a figure that is almost impossible to comprehend. With up to eight million tonnes of this plastic entering the ocean every year and taking hundreds of years to degrade it means that every piece of plastic ever made is still around.
Some plastic removed during a dive. Every little effort can make a big difference
Estimates suggest by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.
Swimming with plastic in the sea is not pleasant, and animals all over the world are reportedly washing up dead with stomachs full of plastic so any reduction in that will undoubtedly have a positive impact for the earth. This benefits your own holiday as when exploring a new country you won’t be seeing plastic waste all over or if you decide to go swimming in the you will see fish not plastic bottles.
Whale sharks are just one of many marine animals to have ingested plastic
There are health benefits to humans too; a recent study has found that 83% of the world’s tap water is contaminated with plastic particles. Plastic micro particles have also been found in meat and fish sold in supermarkets; needless to say this is not on your recommended diet plan.
But how are you meant to reduce your plastic use when travelling? Here are six of the easiest yet most effective things you can do to cut down on plastic waste:
- Bring a reusable water bottle – Many hotels and hostels will allow you to fill your water bottle for free, plus many restaurants or friendly dive shops will do the same. This also has the added benefit of saving you money!
- Refuse the straw – Many bars will offer a straw to drink with, yet this straw will only be used for a handful of minutes before being discarded and taking up to 200 years to decompose. That means it’ll outlive you and many of your descendants!
- Bring a reusable bag – This is one thing that I almost didn’t bring travelling yet has seen frequent use. If shopping it’s sturdier than a plastic bag and also doubles up for other uses, just make sure you buy one that’s compact to use less space.
- Avoid the soft drinks – It’s great to have a soft drink every now and again but if it’s going to be served in a plastic bottle is it really worth it? Asking for free service water saves you money and the environment; you could supplement for a beer (who said using less plastic wasn’t fun?) or just ask if they do soft drinks on tap or in a glass bottle.
- Say no to unnecessary plastic – Often when buying something abroad they will include multiple plastic items such as spoons, sachets, lids, bags, etc. I’ve seen items put into a paper bag which was then placed into a plastic bag. Don’t be afraid to say no to certain items, or just take them out, hand it back with a smile saying you don’t need it.
- Go one step further – For every piece of plastic you use, try and pick up some form of plastic waste that you find such as a plastic bottle on the beach or a plastic bag in the sea.
It may not be possible to go completely plastic free during your trip, yet the important thing is to do your best and reduce your impact as much as possible. Remember, every bit of plastic you’ve used is still on this planet, whether in landfill, recycled (hopefully!) or in the ocean, it’s not difficult to avoid using plastic for the vast majority of time so just try it.