How to Travel Plastic Free

Whether you’re driving, battling British Rail or taking a long-haul flight, travelling can be rife with single-use plastic if you’re not prepared for it.  Zero waste advocate Max La Manna shares his tips for travelling without plastic.

With the wild fires in California, the earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia, the mudslides, the volcanic eruptions, mass floods, extreme poverty, world hunger and the melting of Artic icecaps – plastic might be the least of your worries.  However, 160,000 plastic bags and 20,000 plastic bottles are purchased PER SECOND, PER DAY according to a report from the United Nations.

Should we rethink how we consume this inexpensive and convenient product? Plastics are derived from materials found in nature, such as natural gas, oil, coal, and minerals. We’ve all seen video footage of adult whales washed ashore and when scientists try to establish the cause of death, they find a stomach full of plastic waste. Plastic material can take up to 1,000 years to decompose in landfills, but is there really any way to avoid it for good? 

If you plan to travel any time, now or in the future, this guide will help you to reduce your plastic addiction.  It is purely all about preparation and knowing how to avoid plastic before it is passed on to you and it’s too late.

Reusable bottle: Take your reusable bottle with you on your flight and journey.  When you’re flying there can be no escape from plastic, but if you are prepared the flight attendants will be more the happy to refill your reusable bottle. Just remember to say “no” to any plastic material that is handed to you. Be sure to do your research beforehand to see if the drinking water is safe.

Canvas bag: Just like back home, when you go shopping for food, clothes or anything while travelling, be sure to take a reusable bag with you.  If you are handed a plastic bag – just say “no, thank you!”

Bamboo/ Stainless steel utensils: Most flights and/or takeout restaurants supply you with plastic utensils.  Bring your own utensils with you.  You may feel like you look silly to the person next to you, but I’m sure they are really just wondering why they don’t have their own bamboo set yet.

Container: I always take my stainless steel container with me whenever I travel, even if I’m not going anywhere far. Since I don’t eat the airline food (plastic wrap and plastic containers), hours before I travel I prepare food to take on the plane and use my reusable container to store properly. The flight attendants will always ask what you made!

Hotel: Once I’ve arrived at my hotel or place to stay, the first thing I do is call the front desk to remove all of the tiny toiletry bottles from the bathroom and shower, so I’m never tempted to use them. Instead, fill your own mini reusable bottle for soap, shampoo and lotion to take with you when you travel.

Restaurants: When you are out to eat, remember to speak to your waiter/waitress to see how you can avoid using plastic.  I normally survey the other tables around me to see if they are using any plastic items in their dishes; i.e. plastic containers for sauces, condiments, etc.  

For more plastic-free living tips, see Melissa Hemsley‘s 10 simple swaps to cut down on plastic at home and Fiona Walker‘s 8 easy zero waste swaps for families.