Flooding the oceans – with plastic
Disposable items and plastic packaging, micro plastics in cosmetic products – currently there is much debate about the plastic waste flooding our oceans. In February 2018, Sweden responded to this kind of pollution by banning the use of micro plastics in cosmetics. This is an important step, but the particles they contain add up to only 2 percent of the micro plastics that find their way into the sea. A much higher amount is produced through the abrasion of car tires or synthetic clothes, according to a study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It demonstrates that there is still a long way to go and it is vital to change our consumer behavior and rethink product and infrastructure design. However, avoiding and recycling plastic is still important – at home and while traveling. These Green Pearls® partner hotels set an example.
What is so dangerous about plastic in the ocean?
If nothing changes, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 – this warning is commonly known by now and yet not less worrying. Depending on the material, it can take between 300 and 1000 years for plastic materials to fully decompose. During this process it disintegrates into smaller and smaller pieces, all the way down to micro plastics. These particles are not only dangerous for human health if they are swallowed during diving, surfing or bathing in the sea, but particularly if they are ingested by fish and end up in our food. Among others, plastic exposure may cause reproductive problems, hormonal changes or damage of the nervous system. Moreover, plastic in the ocean directly endangers marine life, for example it causes sea creatures to starve, as their stomachs are full of plastic, or they get entangled in bigger plastic structures. These risks to human and animal health are an essential part of the sustainability training of the staff at Gili Lankanfushi on the Maldives: its focus is on avoiding and discarding plastic waste responsibly.
Avoiding plastic packaging
In hotel business, packaging is important to consider in this context. The small amount of plastic waste that is produced by the CGH Earth hotels in India is sent to local recycling plants. The quantities are small because the hotels focus on avoiding plastic packages as far as possible. They use glass bottles instead of plastic bottles for the drinking water in the guest rooms, ceramic containers for cosmetic products in the bathrooms and paper straws in the restaurant. Vegetables are delivered in crates that are returned to the vendor and for their suppliers, the CGH Earth hotels organize awareness classes on the subject.
Hofgut Hafnerleiten near Passau in Germany has a similar approach. Some of their suppliers have already switched to reusable boxes and in the cozy themed houses, situated in the middle of nature between ponds and trees, guests are provided with food that is wrapped in an environmentally-friendly way: bread is packed in fabric bags, jam in glass jars, sausages and cheese in paper. There aren’t any yoghurt cups, too, since Hofgut Hafnerleiten produces its own yoghurt and fills it into jars.
Raising awareness and sharing knowledge
Plastic waste and its proper disposal are also a major challenge for the island Koh Samui in Thailand. That is why Tongsai Bay, just like Gili Lankanfushi, focuses on the education of their staff, increasing awareness and respect for nature. By implementingTongsai Bay’s practices and guidelines at their homes, the employees set an example, share their knowledge with the rest of the population and gradually bring change to the island. Tongsai Bay’s measures of avoiding plastic are very creative as well. The toothbrushes are biodegradable and the drinking straws are made of lemon grass – by the way, Tongsai Bay provides a tutorial on its Facebook page, which is another way of encouraging people to join in their commitment.
Joint efforts for the protection of the ocean
On the Maldives, a responsible waste management cannot be taken for granted; most of the garbage ends up on the so-called garbage island or is simply thrown into the sea. That is why Gili Lankanfushi has a strict “no plastic policy”. Nevertheless, the hotel has to face great amounts of plastic that are washed ashore or brought from Malé. In response to this, the resort regularly organizes staff trainings and beach cleanups that can also be joined by guests. Gili Lankanfushi cooperates with the environmental initiative Parley, which takes care of the recycling of the collected material and fights against plastic in the oceans by means of high-profile cooperations. For example, the recycled material is transformed into thread, used by Adidas for the production of high performance shoes and clothing. Supported by Parley, Gili Lankanfushi is going to bring its recycling efforts to the neighboring island Himmafushi, raise awareness and encourage the collection of plastic waste – in order to gradually reduce the amount of plastic in the oceans.