Time for tourism to ban use of plastic water bottles

sustainable ‘bottled’ water at &Beyond’s safari parks

San Francisco has become the first city in America to ban the sale of water in plastic bottles.  Over the next four years, the ban will phase out the sales of plastic water bottles that hold 21 ounces or less in public places. Waivers are permissible if an adequate alternative water source is not available.

This is a welcome first step towards tacking the plastic bottle plague. Whilst tourism is not the only cause of this form of pollution, it is a very obvious one – many tourists carry around bottled water and are not always careful about disposal. While I was in Kerala last week plastic pollution was very obvious; discarded plastic and glass bottles and cans bob around in the Vembanad Lake and in the backwater channels. This litter is not left by the sand miners and fishermen, although the polystyrene floating with the bottles is probably not left by tourists. In the household survey we are conducting in Kumarakom plastic pollution is coming up regularly in local people’s concerns about the negative impacts of tourism. Bottles which find their way into water courses end in the sea threatening marine life

The industry needs to do more to encourage guests not to use plastics. In CGH Earth hotels guests are provided with cloth bags to use when shopping and the bathroom toiletries come in attractive reusable earthenware flasks. At CGH Earth’s Brunton Boatyard property they used to get through 15,000 bottles of water each year. They have installed a reverse osmosis water purifier and now serve water in reusable, and very stylish, glass bottles. The guests have a habit of taking them home so they are going to start selling the bottles in the hotel shop.

phinda-water& Beyond has a similar plant at Phinda Private Game Reserve, where the bottling plant provides  both still and sparkling water, known as “wild” and “tame” on &Beyond’s specially designed glass water bottles.

There are stylish alternatives to plastic bottles – gain some kudos by providing them

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Harold is Professor of Responsible Tourism at Manchester Metropolitan University, where he teaches and researches in the Centre for Responsible Tourism. Harold researches on tourism, local economic development and poverty reduction, conservation and responsible tourism and teaches Masters and PhD students. as well as the industry, local communities, governments, and conservationists. Harold also undertakes consultancy and evaluations for companies, NGOs, governments, and international organisations. He is also a Director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism which he founded in 2002 and which promotes the principles of the Cape Town Declaration.


  1. Lorraine Nenks says

    Same applies to waste management. Recycling bins randomly scattered around with only one choice: plastic, paper or cans. Consequently every conceivable type of rubbish in every bin. CTICC claims to be seriously going green? And as for the exhibition stands – no comment.

  2. Andy Rutherford says

    Change can begin at home with the WTM itself.

    I have attended the last three WTMs in London and each year I have had to lodge an ‘official ‘ complaint that it is impossible to access a single public drinking water tap, let alone enough to have a plastic bottle free WTM for all the delegates. All workshops are resplendent with plastic water bottles. 60% of food suppliers I asked at the last WTM to fill the water bottle I had brought with me, said that they could not. One food supplier pointed to the cabinet filled with bottled water for sale and shrugged her shoulders!

    If the ExCeL cannot provide even this basic service, I assume that the WTM will look elsewhere for a venue. This is a small tip on the plastic consumption mountain of the WTM and a sad symbol of the need for structural change in travel and tourism that Harold so correctly highlights.

    Could the WTM seize the initiative and lead by example?.

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