We are taking back our lives and will soon be travelling again. But the health of the planet is increasingly compromised. Do we have the right means to eradicate the plastic pandemic?

Covid-19 reminds us of the importance of plastics applications

The pandemic affecting the planet for more than a year now, has rehabilitated the massive use of plastics in our daily lives. Personal protective equipment (PPE) and single-use medical equipment, as well as their packaging, have been crucial in preserving the lives of citizens and frontline health workers.

In addition, the closure of restaurants has been followed by the rise of deliveries and takeaways, contributing to a considerable increase in the use of plastic food packaging and single-use accessories.

But in recent years, governments around the world had begun an incredible fight against plastic, adopting strategies and countermeasures to limit its use. Especially the awareness of the health condition of our seas has driven companies and consumers to adopt eco-friendly materials and to educate generations about proper waste disposal.

Plastic: pollution or life-saving?

The question becomes inevitable. The focus is not so much on the excessive use of plastic (that, unfortunately, we are not able to avoid at the moment), but on the lack of awareness and irresponsible consumer behaviour, as well as on the waste collection and disposal system, which has been under considerable stress, since the start of the pandemic. All these elements blame plastic, making it the main (or even the only) cause of the poor health of our planet.

But does it really make sense to demonise it? No.

What we need to focus on is the proper management of this material: steps such as recovery and recycling would actually reduce its dispersion into the environment. The guidelines of governments and environmental organisations are focusing more and more on increasing consumer responsibility while encouraging the use of sustainable materials.

Post-pandemic sustainable tourism: utopia or reality?

The steps we have taken so far to protect the environment seem to have been wasted. We are fighting hard to win the war against a virus that has taken away our lives, but we fail to see how much the health of the world is equally in danger. Once we can finally lay down our arms against Covid, it may already be too late.

However, restarting the businesses hardest hit by the pandemic may be the last chance we have to limit the side effects of plastic pollution.

Tourism is probably one of those industries we can do more about: we could see the first results immediately after few important measures. Then, we could can talk again about sustainable tourism after the pandemic, with the involvement of all industry players.

What has been done so far?

On the eve of the 2020 summer season, the UN gave a signal in this sense. With the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, the tourism industry was actively involved in the fight against medical waste pollution.

The initiative was led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) in collaboration with Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

The combination of these forces led to a set of recommendations that help the cause:

  • reduce the impact of plastics;
  • involve and empower suppliers;
  • optimise disposal processes;
  • ensure continuous and transparent communication with both staff and guests during and after the pandemic.

Major global tourism companies such as Accor, Club Med, Iberostar Group and Melco Resorts accepted the invitation and became official signatories of the initiative. The four organisations joined twenty other signatories in a public declaration to eliminate unnecessary single-use plastics and to favour the use of recyclable or compostable plastic items and packaging. Their engagement also includes continued support for a circular economy for plastics, based on recovery and proper disposal.

Favia: aluminium tubes towards Zero Impact

Now that tourism companies have welcomed the initiative, it is time to involve manufacturers of disposable personal protective equipment.

Favia, already a leading manufacturer of aluminium tubes, has launched a project to reduce the environmental impact of plastic packaging: an aluminium tube for hand sanitiser gel. The innovation lies in its features:

  • aluminium is 100% endlessy recyclable and the recycling process requires less energy than production from raw material;
  • a closure cap made of recyclable plastic or biopolymer;
  • ecological, hygienic, lightweight, easy to carry and fully customizable in design;
  • zero waste: collapsible tubes allow to use the product until the last drop and protect it from external agents (such air or light) that may compromise its qualities.

Future perspectives (but not too far) in the fight against the plastic pandemic

To meet the sustainability challenges during the pandemic, significant technological advances and sustainable approaches are required from companies, governments and the scientific community.

Strategies implemented around the world need to consider pandemic trends and global mobility. Sustainable measures taken today must be used as opportunities to move closer to a pollution-free world as soon as possible.

Some measures allow immediate action plans, others will have to wait to see results.

What do you think? Are we still in time to do something about it?