Global tourism sector should continue fight against plastic pollution during and after COVID-19 – new UN recommendations
  • Preventing the spread of COVID-19 in a recovering tourism sector does not mean a return to single-use plastic products.
  • Global Tourism Plastics Initiative releases key recommendations for the tourism sector to continue fighting plastic pollution, while maintaining public health and hygiene in the face of the pandemic.
  • Tourism companies such as Accor, Club Med, Iberostar Group and major tourism business associations announce their commitment to fighting plastic pollution in tourism.

NAIROBI, Kenya, July 23, 2020,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has hit the tourism sector hard, putting more than 100 million jobs at risk; as countries begin to recover, new UN recommendations advise that the tourism sector builds back better, continuing its push to fight plastic pollution.

The Recommendations for the Tourism Sector to Continue Taking Action on Plastic Pollution During COVID-19 Recovery were released today by the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which unites the tourism sector behind a common vision to address the root causes of plastic pollution.

Representing 10% of global GDP, tourism is one of the economic sectors hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and may face a decline in international tourist arrivals of 58-78% during 2020, putting 100 to 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk. The sector has responded with a strong focus on health and hygiene, however these measures, if not properly managed, may have an environmental impact such as additional waste generation, water consumption and pollution from chemicals usage.

The recommendations are addressed to tourism stakeholders with the aim of supporting them to continue fighting plastic pollution during the COVID-19 recovery. The document illustrates how reducing the plastic footprint, increasing the engagement of suppliers, working closer with waste service providers, and ensuring transparency on the actions taken, can significantly contribute to a responsible recovery of the tourism sector. They further highlight the importance of cleaning and sanitation procedures as well as ongoing and transparent communication with both staff and guests during and after the pandemic.

“When not properly disposed of, plastic products such as gloves, masks and hand sanitiser bottles end up polluting the natural environment around major tourism destinations,” said Ligia Noronha, Director of UNEP’s Economy Division. “We need to take a science-based approach and support governments, business, and local communities to ensure we are taking the most effective measures to protect hygiene and health without creating pollution and causing harm to our natural environment. These recommendations addressing hygiene and disposable plastic can support tourism sector stakeholders in their efforts towards a responsible recovery.”

Major tourism business associations announce their commitment to fighting plastic pollution in tourism

The recommendations come as major global tourism companies Accor, with 5,000 hotels in 110 countries, Club Med, with close to 80 resorts over four continents, and Iberostar Group, with more than 120 hotels in 19 countries, cement their commitment to fighting plastic pollution and become three of the first official signatories to the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, along with more than twenty signatories from across all continents, including major industry players and supporting organisations which will act as multipliers.

Announced in January 2020, the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative acts as the tourism sector interface of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, which unites more than 450 businesses, governments, and other organisations behind a common vision and targets to address plastic waste and pollution at its source. This Initiative supports UNEP’s global campaign Clean Seas that aims at addressing the root causes of marine litter.

“We want to eliminate guest-related single-use plastic products in our hotels. For each one, we’ve determined a plan in order to remove them and/or define substitute products,” said Chris Cahill, Accor Deputy CEO Hotel Operations & CEO Luxury Brands.

Sabina Fluxà Thienemann, Vice-Chairman and CEO of Iberostar Group says that responsible tourism must lead the way to help tourism companies build back better. “We say this not only as owners or managers of more than 120 hotels in 19 countries, a business responsible for the health and safety of almost 8 million guests a year and the livelihoods of 34,000 employees. We say it as part of an industry that is responsible for our oceans – 80% of our properties sit alongside them,” she said. “Iberostar’s entire operations will be single-use plastic free by 2020, as far as local regulation allows. We’ll be waste-free by 2025, carbon neutral by 2030, and launching our roadmap for our transparent and time bound goals to get there by the end of this year.”

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is a member of the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative Advisory Committee. John Duncan, Lead of WWF No Plastics in Nature Initiative, says that plastic has become one of the most commonly used materials of the 21st century due to its flexible and durable qualities, but it brings with it many challenges, some of which we are only realising now.

“Plastic pollution is now found throughout food-webs in every known marine ecosystem and this problem is growing as every day more plastic is entering our natural environment at an unprecedented rate. We urgently need to rethink when and how we use plastic in our lives and businesses,” he said.  “The tourism sector has a key role to play in addressing this problem and WWF is encouraging tourism industry leaders, consumers and policymakers to join the GTPI and respond to this challenge. We can, and need to, do more to create the world we want to live in. Together.”

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of the UN Environment Programme.

NOTES TO EDITORS

About the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative
The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative unites the tourism sector behind a common vision to address the root causes of plastic pollution. It enables businesses and governments to take concerted action, leading by example in the shift towards a circularity in the use of plastics. Developed within the framework of the Sustainable Tourism Programme of the One Planet network, a multi-stakeholder partnership to implement SDG 12 on Sustainable Consumption and Production, the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative is led by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Tourism Organisation, in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. 

To date, signatories to the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative include tourism businesses and organisations from across Africa, Asia and Europe, as well as global networks. The full list of signatories and their commitments can be found here.

About the One Planet network Sustainable Tourism Programme
The One Planet Sustainable Tourism Programme has the overall objective to enhance the sustainable development impacts of the tourism sector by 2030, by developing, promoting and scaling up sustainable consumption and production practices that boost the efficient use of natural resources while producing less waste and addressing the challenges of climate change and biodiversity. The Sustainable Tourism Programme is part of the One Planet network, a multi-stakeholder partnership to implement SDG 12 on Sustainable Consumption and Production.

About the UN Environment Programme
The UN Environment Programme is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

About the World Tourism Organisation
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism. As the leading international organization in the field of tourism, UNWTO promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability and offers leadership and support to the sector in advancing knowledge and tourism policies worldwide.

About the Ellen MacArthur Foundation
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation was launched in 2010 with the aim of accelerating the transition to the circular economy. Since its creation, the charity has emerged as a global thought leader, putting the circular economy on the agenda of decision-makers around the world. The charity’s work focuses on seven key areas: insight and analysis; business; institutions, governments, and cities; systemic initiatives; circular design; learning; and communications.

About the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment
The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment unites businesses, governments, and other organisations behind a common vision and targets to address plastic waste and pollution at its source. Signatories include companies representing 20% of all plastic packaging produced globally, as well as governments, NGOs, universities, industry associations, investors, and other organisations. The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment is led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme.

For more information, please contact:

Charles Arden-Clarke, Head of the Secretariat, 10 Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns
Keishamaza Rukikaire, Head of News and Media, UN Environment Programme