My awareness of the impact of plastic pollution has risen dramatically from travelling. In India, my jaw dropped when a middle class, well-educated family threw orange juice cartons out of the window on our way to the famous Toy Train from Pathankot to Mcleod Gang, a route known for its beauty. In Cambodia, the sight of children burning litter in school grounds was shocking. I thought of it as arson, but then I realised it was a regular school duty to clear up litter before lessons began. And the endless plastic bags and rubbish on beaches that should be unspoilt, and the impact this has on wildlife and their habitats, is mind-blowing. So what can you do about it?
A a volunteer or intern with Kaya, we ask that you become a more responsible traveller and take on board some tips to reduce your role in the global plastic pollution problem:
- Take a water bottle with you, so that you can refill it with boiled water in your accommodations, or top it up from much larger bottles of filtered water, reducing the need to buy multiple small bottles during your 4-week stay
- Use refillable toiletry bottles that you take home with you, rather than throwing away bottles of shampoo, shower gel, body wash and other products
- Pack a reusable bag for your trip, so you can lessen the large number of plastic bags that you will be offered in markets during your stay. In some countries, supermarkets double-bag your items. Smile, say no thank you, and put your items in your own bag
- Refuse plastic cutlery and straws in mini-markets. In Thailand, every pot of yoghurt, bottle of water and can of soda is accompanied by a straw, and these are often thrown just away
- Share your knowledge of plastic pollution with your host family and colleagues
- Recycle plastics. Use bottles and other plastic items to make crafts and instruments when working with children. It may be that a local organisation uses bottles for lighting in slum areas, for example, or on irrigation projects. See what you can find out and set up a collection process to support these initiatives
- And of course, always dispose of your waste properly
None of these things cost you money or are difficult to action, so be a responsible traveller, reduce your plastic presence and ensure that your actions when volunteering, interning or travelling are not leading to harm for our fellow species.