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Plastic free travel: arriving at your destination

Part 1:
Earlier this month we discussed how travelling plastic free is a journey within itself. You can find this article “Plastic free travel is a journey in itself” at the Committee For Waste Reduction website.

During a recent trip to Canada we put plastic free travel to the test. Is it possible to travel plastic free, what are the struggles and where can we apply pressure for change?

We discovered that airports in Australia need to put more emphasis on refill stations, encouraging passengers to travel with refillable water bottles, subsequently reducing water packaged in plastic. Observations concluded that many passengers had no problem with travelling with their own water bottles instead they experienced difficulty finding a place to refill those bottles.

SIMPLE SOLUTION: Airports should provide refill stations to travellers.

Once navigating the mounds of plastic faced during airline travel, and reaching the final destination, what sort of issues are we likely to face?

Part 2: Plastic free travel: Reaching your destination

Eating out: One morning we met a friend for some breakfast. Our meeting spot was at Ricky’s . . . it’s not exactly high-end dining, so we were bound to be faced with a single use plastic issue here or there, but the few we encountered are typical at Canadian restaurants and certainly not specific to dining at Ricky’s. As well, they are issues that can easily be resolved with small changes. What am I referring to?

Instead of simply serving a single portion of milk in a small jug, the customer is given small plastic containers of milk. This practice of serving single use milk containers likely started due to waste — milk waste. In the long run, is milk waste worse than or equal to the plastic waste that occurs after every customer opens one of those small plastic containers, one after the other until they get the desired amount of milk? Versus the small amount of milk that will be tipped down the sink and the large milk container it was poured from added to the recycle pile? I’d argue the later, as it’s unlikely these containers can be recycled or even end up in the recycling stream.

The same can be said about honey, jam, ketchup, mustard and the many other condiments served in single use plastic containers. Perhaps if restaurants were charged on a waste-weight basis they’d find a way to resolve this waste issue in a quick hurry.

Buying Groceries: Being in Vancouver most certainly has its advantages when it comes to shopping for food — and aiming for a plastic free experience. Canadian’s, particularly Vancouverites are a pretty eco-conscious bunch. Is there room for improvement? Of course, and the City of Vancouver obviously think so, as they have a very ambitious plan to be a Zero Waste City by 2040.

Walking into a lot of shops and you’re typically asked: paper or plastic? When declining the plastic bag, you’re greeted with a warm smile and a “thank you,” or “great”. Why does this stand out to an Australian visitor? Because as we know, many states recently banned plastic bags and the uproar about it was ridiculous to say the least. Yet here we are in Canada, with no plastic bag ban in place and most people think it’s pretty normal to simply take your own. I’m actually quite surprised however that Canada has been so slow to implement a country-wide ban. Let’s hope it comes soon.

Back to the actual groceries, regardless of one’s personal opinions on eating beef, poultry or seafood it was wonderful to see the Village Fish Market in West Vancouver packaging their products in waxed paper. Surely, it’s not that difficult for butchers to follow their lead, they did it 30 plus years ago. Perhaps it’s time to go back to the past and starting putting “earth before plastic.”

Unfortunately, as I discovered — regardless of your preparation: carrying reusable bags, straws, coffee cups or a water bottle won’t always save you from the amount of plastic you’re bombarded with on your trip.

What can you do? Take note, take a deep breath and carry on. By noting issues with plastic waste in restaurants and other businesses we can provide feedback and request they work on these issues. We can’t fix all the problems in one day but we can work towards solutions.

In part three of this plastic free travel blog series we will discuss the pain points of airline travel and the extreme issue of plastic waste.

Until then … enjoy your next holiday vacation, and best of luck with your plastic free travel.

Have plastic free tips to share? Let us know below.

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