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UNWTO Global Tourism Plastics Initiative welcomes 26 new signatories

The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative has welcomed 26 new signatories, including businesses and organizations from every part of the global tourism value chain. Led by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the Initiative unites the tourism sector behind a common goal of addressing the root causes of plastic pollution.

The new signatories include Booking.com, G Adventures, The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, Inkaterra, TUI Care Foundation, deSter part of gategroup, and International Aviation Waste Management Platform, among others. They feature suppliers of guest amenities, on-the-go packaging and waste-management platforms, as well as accommodation providers (both large groups and SMEs), leading online tourism platforms, tour operators, and associations working at the destination level.

The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative was launched in January 2020 and now counts on 46 signatories, illustrating how reducing plastics pollution in tourism remains a priority despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The diversity of the signatories highlights the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative’s potential to promote systemic solutions that can be implemented locally and scaled up globally.

Tackling plastic pollution remains a priority for sector

Within the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic, a circular approach to the management of plastic items and packaging can avoid any increase in the use of single-use plastics for hygiene purposes. It can also relieve pressure on waste management infrastructures and foster a more sustainable supply chain. In this sense, a circular economy for plastics is critical for the tourism sector to preserve and protect destinations and to recover responsibly from the current crisis.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Moving towards the circular economy is a strategic approach for the tourism sector. The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative can lead to the reduction of pollution and waste across all parts of the tourism sector and support a responsible recovery from COVID-19 that leads to more sustainability and resilience.”

Elisa Tonda, Head of the consumption and production unit of UNEP, adds: “The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for urgent action on the climate, nature and pollution and waste crises which are driven by unsustainable consumption and production, but has also provided with a window of opportunity to prioritize sustainability as part of a green recovery. This new group of signatories of the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative reflects the continued commitment of the tourism value chain to increase circularity in the plastic system and maintain their ambition to tackle plastic pollution, moving forward in a post-COVID world.”

Recommendations informing recovery plans

Earlier this year, a series of recommendations for the tourism sector to continue taking action on plastic pollution throughout the pandemic were released. These serve as a basis to develop COVID-19 recovery plans, revise standard operating procedures, and define plastic management strategies. The recommendations are now available in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Russian.

Gerald Naber, Programme Manager, New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, adds: “The signatories of the Global Commitment are making encouraging initial progress on delivering their targets towards a circular economy, but a substantial acceleration of progress will be needed to achieve the 2025 targets.”

The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative forms part of the larger framework of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. Specifically, the Initiative acts as sectoral interface to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, which recently released its Progress Report for 2020.

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