How to Reduce Plastic Waste Whilst Travelling

Thanks to the likes of Blue Planet Two and numerous major campaigns, we’re all increasingly aware of the damage plastic is doing to our world. Recent reports have highlighted our unsustainable demand for single-use plastics, with a staggering one million plastic bottles bought globally per minute. With statistics such as these, there’s no time like the present to start reducing your own plastic consumption and begin travelling more sustainably.

Whilst it’s easy to get into good habits at home, it can seem much harder to reduce your use of plastic when abroad. But to prove how easy it can be, here’s eight handy tips to help you reduce plastic waste whilst travelling.

A reusable water bottle in the Carpathian Mountains

1. Carry a reusable water bottle – or buy a filtered one!

Instead of constantly buying bottled water, why not save yourself the time, money and effort with a reusable water bottle? Hard plastic or steel water bottles can be re-used for years and are very affordable. You can also bring empty bottles through airport security and refill them on the other side.

Many choose to buy bottled water when travelling to areas where the water isn’t safe to drink. But it seems there’s now a solution. Drink Safe Travel Tap and Water to Go are just two examples of filter bottles that ensure you can have safe water no matter where you are in the world. These bottles are fitted with filter systems that push clean water through to the main part of the bottle. An excellent alternative to buying bottled water.

Tupperware containers in a fridge

2. Bring Tupperware

If you’re taking food for a day trip, trekking adventure or long distance journey, pack your lunch and snacks in Tupperware rather than disposable plastic food bags. They’re great for saving leftovers, either from a restaurant meal or from cooking your own dinner in a hostel.

Tupperware is also very cheap and can be found in all shapes and sizes in numerous stores. If you’re worried about it fitting in your backpack, then simply use it to store other items whilst it’s empty or invest in collapsible Tupperware. Just remember to choose containers with a clip-top lid to avoid any leaks.

A handful of plastic straws

3. Say no to disposable straws and cutlery

Alongside plastic bags, straws are a huge source of plastic waste and one of the top 10 items found in beach cleanups. So if you’re ordering a drink, avoid asking for a straw or invest in a reusable one – you can buy bamboo or stainless steel straws which are far better for the environment.

Likewise, you can easily reduce your plastic waste by turning down disposable cutlery. Instead, carry a spork or purchase lightweight travel utensils to take with you.

Toiletries on a bath

4. Use re-usable bottles for toiletries

Sadly, nearly all our favourite toiletries are packaged in plastic. So rather than buying new products for each trip, simply purchase a few travel-size reusable bottles to fill with your shampoos, conditioners and suncreams instead. You’ll not only reduce your plastic waste, but save yourself money too.

Other great plastic-saving ideas include buying soap bars instead of shower gel and shampoo bars. Lush for example, produce a variety of shampoo bars that you can store in a reusable tin. Just one of these mighty bars can last up to 80 washes, far longer than the liquid equivalent, and they’re also packed with essential oils to keep your hair looking shiny.

It’s worth considering that whilst we all love the free toiletries on offer in hotels, those tiny bottles are also a huge source of plastic waste. Many hotels tend to toss half-used bottles away rather than recycle. So it’s far better to leave these alone and just use your own products instead.

A local farmers market

5.  Shop at local markets

Whilst on your travels, it’s also a great idea to shop at local markets rather than supermarket chains. There you can purchase ripe and tasty fruit and vegetables without the excessive plastic packaging found in large stores.

Besides reducing your plastic waste, there’s plenty of other good reasons to shop at local markets. You’ll also be supporting local economies and enjoying some of the freshest produce around. Whilst supermarket fruit and vegetables are normally a few days old before they hit the shelves, local market produce may have only been picked that morning.

Girl carrying a reusable bag

6. Pack a reusable shopping bag

Whilst on the road, it’s easy to have a reusable shopping bag rolled up in your backpack or day bag. They take up very little space, are lightweight and easy to store. These bags are then ideal for carrying food shopping or for any spontaneous purchases you may make whilst sightseeing.

100% cotton or canvas bags are much more sustainable alternatives to plastic bags. You can also find fair trade reusable bags or those with fun designs that can be personalised. Approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used every year, so by packing a reusable one you’re helping reduce this huge number.

Bamboo toothbrush

7. Invest in eco-friendly versions of your products

Just like our toiletries, many other beauty products are also huge sources of plastic waste. Luckily however, there are plenty of eco-friendly alternatives out there that are well worth investing in. Bamboo toothbrushes are a great place to start, with an estimated 3.6 billion plastic toothbrushes used every year.

Recycled razors are also a good investment and companies such as Preserve are making razors from recycled plastic rather than selling cheap disposables. And for the ladies, switching to a menstrual cup such as the Mooncup will dramatically reduce your plastic waste from tampons and sanitary pads.

People picking up plastic waste on a beach

8. Pick up wherever you can

Being mindful of reducing plastic waste doesn’t only apply to your own. Whether you’re relaxing on a beach, sightseeing around a city or hiking through the wilderness, if you see any plastic rubbish – pick it up. You’ll be ensuring it doesn’t reach rivers and oceans as well as preventing it from harming wildlife.

It’s also hugely important to spread the word. If you’re travelling to far-flung corners of the Earth, chances are that the fight against plastic isn’t anywhere near as broadcast as it is in the Western world. So if someone offers you a plastic bag, straw, plate, cup or bottle, politely decline and explain why you’re trying to use less plastic.


Got any more handy tips? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

Leave a Reply