What is 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, governments, associations and NGOs to take concerted action, leading by example in the shift towards a circularity in the use of plastics.
The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative has the objective to tackle plastic pollution by promoting a shift towards circular economy of plastics in tourism operations where plastics never become waste, rather than to completely eliminate plastics from all tourism operations. It is a systemic approach to plastic pollution where we eliminate (all problematic and unnecessary plastic items), innovate (to ensure that all other plastics are reusable, recyclable or compostable) and circulate (to keep plastic in the economy).
How does the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative contribute to a responsible recovery from the COVID-19 crisis?
Tourism is one of the hardest hit economic sectors by the COVID-19 crisis. The sector might face a decline of 58% and 78% in international tourist arrivals during 2020 and has 100 to 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk. There are additional impacts, which are still difficult to quantify, such as pollution or threats to the conservation of wildlife and biodiversity, all directly linked to tourism.
The COVID-19 crisis has emphasised the need to strengthen the resilience of the tourism sector and awakened a sense of unity and interconnectedness among tourism stakeholders. This crisis has highlighted both the fragility of the natural environment and the need to protect it, as well as the intersections of tourism economics, society and the environment like nothing before in history. It represents an opportunity to accelerate sustainable consumption and production patterns and build back better tourism.
The crisis has also raised awareness of the importance of local supply chains and the need to rethink how goods and services are produced and consumed, both key elements of a circular economy. Integrating circularity and further advancing resource efficiency in the tourism value chain represent an opportunity for the tourism sector to embrace a sustainable and resilient growth pathway.
Addressing plastic waste and pollution can be a catalyser of circularity in tourism through the elimination of unnecessary plastics, integrating reuse models safely, engaging the value chain to advance the use of recyclable and compostable plastics and collaborating to increase recycling rates for plastics. The objectives of the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative are anchored on these principles. In addition, supporting the shift towards a circularity of plastics can reduce marine litter and plastic pollution, preserve the attractiveness of destinations and trigger multi-stakeholder precompetitive collaboration on topics such as waste management at destination level, which in turn can have a positive effect on health and therefore support a responsible recovery.
The initiative is also mindful of the increased complexity of the sustainable use of plastics in the tourism sector in connection with enhanced health and safety requirements and therefore has released the Guiding document “Recommendations for the tourism sector to continue taking action on plastic pollution during COVID-19 recovery”.
Who leads the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative?
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 UN Environment Programme and the World Tourism Organisation, in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
How does the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative connect to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment?
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. As such, the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative will implement the New Plastics Economy vision, framework and definitions to mobilise the global tourism industry towards concerted significant action against plastic pollution.
What is the aim of the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative?
The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative requires tourism organisations to make a set of concrete and actionable commitments by 2025:
• Eliminate problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging and items by 2025;
• Take action to move from single-use to reuse models or reusable alternatives by 2025;
• Engage the value chain to move towards 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable, or compostable;
• Take action to increase the amount of recycled content across all plastic packaging and items used;
• Commit to collaborate and invest to increase the recycling and composting rates for plastics;
• Report publicly and annually on progress made towards these targets.
How does the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative support the tourism sector?
The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative will support companies, destinations, associations, and NGOs through:
• Sharing information about the plastic pollution challenge and the solutions being implemented across the sector;
• Fostering procurement practices that consider the plastic footprint of products and services and encourage circularity in the use of plastics;
• Promoting innovation and facilitating the cooperation between governments, local organisations, and businesses;
• Consolidating the progress reported by all signatories and establishing a performance benchmark;
• Publicly communicating the actions taken by signatories and showcasing the leadership of the sector.
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, loss of biodiversity and pollution. 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.
Published on: January 2023
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