Can you be #plasticfree on a mainstream holiday?

March 4, 2018

Is it easier said than done to reduce our use of plastic when we're on holiday?


It seems that we can’t turn on the TV or social media these days without seeing documentaries and post after post about plastic.  We celebrate this focus on the issue and applaud those looking to make positive changes, but we also accept that busy lives and convenient solutions aren't necessarily conducive to reducing our love-affair with plastic.




If it can be hard at home, is it even harder on holiday?


When you’re on holiday your usual patterns are disrupted.  Depending on where you live, you could be very used to separating and recycling your waste.  So, when you find yourself in a hotel or apartment complex that has little, if any of the infrastructure that you’re used to it’s not easy to keep up the good habits.

  • You’re suddenly at the whim of the cleaner, who despite seeing only one tissue in the bin, replaces the entire bin liner lest you complain that they are not doing their job properly. 

  • The bar staff have to give you a plastic cup because health and safety doesn't allow glass around the pool and no-one has really studied whether the re-usable plastic options are a more profitable use of budget. Sticking to business as usual seems to be the way.

  • There's a killer cocktail menu so you order a margarita and subsequently have a small heart attack as you see three straws and some decorative palm trees thrown into your styrofoam cup for good measure! 

  • You are VIP'd and find a complementary fruit basket wrapped in three metres of decorative plastic to protect fruit that has its own skin!!

We could go on, and we very often do!



How on this green earth are you meant to make a difference when the odds are so heavily stacked against you?



It’s not easy to be #plasticfree on holiday, we know because we’ve tried and because we have significant insight into operations in mainstream hotels around the world. 


In a hotel in the Cayman Islands, breakfast was ONLY served on styrofoam plates and to almost finish me off completely, the plastic knives and forks where wrapped in plastic packaging!  It was, I was told, more expensive to install the dishwasher than to keep buying single use items, but this is what we can find ourselves up against when we’re away from home. 


From day two, I took my own crockery down from my room, I was the only person that did this and it warranted some strange looks.  It wasn’t much effort to make, but it was an effort nonetheless, and one that either no-one else wanted to make or thought of making.















Day 1 -v- Day 2 after discovering everything was served in plastic or styrofoam



There are plenty of suggestions out there, but are we all A) Willing and B) Able? 


Can you really do it?



Take A Re-Fillable Bottle with you

Thinking about it, the easiest thing we could all probably do is to take a refillable water bottle with us…or is it?  I’ve traipsed around many an airport looking for a water fountain, and they’re not always easy to find.  My favourite airport for refill stations in Toronto, not only have they considered that a bottle needs to fit vertically under the tap to fill properly, a digital counting device shows how many plastic bottles have been saved by using it. 


As for asking in a café in an airport, responses have ranged from super friendly to a downright 'no' delivered with a snarl.  


This is why we’d love to see more destinations with apps and opportunities like Refill in the UK and Refill my Bottle in Bali,  who make finding drinking water a heck of a lot easier. 


Having encountered more issues than opportunities, and knowing that tap water isn’t always recommended for drinking even if it was available, I decided to invest in a filter bottle and found this overview of the best filtered water bottles by Travel Sauro particularly helpful in making my choice.  This, I must say was a great investment, I get some funny looks filling it up in the ladies, and some taps are more difficult to get it under than others, but at least I can re-hydrate!



Take a Re-Usable Shopping Bag

This one should be pretty easy no matter where you travel and how you get there.  Re-usable shopping bags from home can double up as great beach bags, they’re not heavy to carry and you can squash them very easily into your suitcase.

The trick to them being effective against plastic bags is to take them out with you every day, even if you don’t intend to go shopping.  How many of us ‘pop’ into the supermarket only to come out with bags full of stuff we never intended to buy?



Don’t hoard the bathroom miniatures

Aside from the plastic issue, do you really know what’s in them?  I’ve always harboured a suspicion that I’m washing my hair with washing up liquid.

I think nowadays most of us like to have our own toiletries, think of all the different options that the hotel range just can’t satisfy (dry hair, fine hair, coloured hair, permed hair, the list goes on).


Will you honestly use them again or will they sit in a drawer at home and never see the light of day?  If you do decide to bring them home, you can at least then refill them with your own preferred brands to take away with you next time.



 Plastic versus Refillable Bathroom Miniatures


Choose non-packaged food items when you shop

At traditional markets where you’re also likely to be supporting small independent businesses, this is probably going to be easier, but some of the larger supermarkets can be a bigger challenge, particular when choosing fresh produce.

Imagine you pick up three avocados, weigh them all and put the bar-coded sticker onto one of the loose avocados.  How do the checkout staff know you haven’t just weighed one and put three into your basket?  


Their process is designed to stop a form of shop-lifting but the down side to this is massive plastic bag use.   


So, markets or independent fruit and veg stores are definitely worth finding, and keep an eye out for people on the road if you’ve hired a car, you can often grab some amazing bargains from the back of a legitimate van!


 Fresh, loose produce at Alcudia's Market, Mallorca


If you already travel with a conscience, perhaps you do make your own provisions to minimise your plastic use, and we’d particularly love to hear from you if you have easy, practical tips that can be adopted by mainstream of holidaymakers. 


If you’re really keen to go the extra mile, take a look at even more ideas to reduce your plastic while on holiday.


Drop us a line with your top tips at or post ideas onto our Facebook page.


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