Ban the plastic bottle

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CHIANG RAI, 28 May 2018: Pressure is mounting on hotel chains to join campaigns that will reduce the use of plastic in the hospitality and tourism industry.

The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office’s executive director, Jens Thraenhart, confirmed in his weekly despatch to travel partners that the blight of plastic pollution would be included on the association’s agenda during the annual forum in Nakhon Phanom, 26 to 28 June.

Around 220 hospitality and tourism executives from the six countries of the Mekong Region will attend the forum.

His pledge follows on from last year’s MTF in Luang Prabang when the forum for the first time in its 21 years banned the use of plastic bottles and straws at the three-day event.

It was a symbolic gesture, but it was backed by the distribution of refillable water bottles that were given to all delegates.

This year, the MTCO executive director takes support for the  campaign a step further.

“I would like to commit the last 30 minutes of the MTF Plenary session, Thursday 28 June, to the subject of plastic pollution, he said.

During the MTF 2017 in Luang Prabang that focused on  “Mekong Opportunities & Threats” delegates from the Greater Mekong Sub-region countries made passionate pleas to deal with threats they personally cared about that impacted on the region’s well-being and tourism prospects.

“From child protection to community-based tourism, we covered a range of critical issues, that were incorporated in the 2015-2020 GMS Tourism Sector Strategy,” he said.

“This year, we can all agree that plastic pollution is a big threat globally, but in particular in this part of the world, where everyday we are confronted with single-use plastic.”

As a gesture to highlight the need to tackle the problem, the Mekong Tourism Forum will once again ban single use plastic, in particular plastic water bottles and plastic straws.

“Every delegate will receive a refillable water bottle, as well as a bamboo straw. We will use water refill stations in all official hotels and MTF venues.”

In a comment responding to his email plea for action on plastic, Jaya House Hotels managing director, Christian De Boer said:

“One day soon chain hotels will also HAVE to start taking care and be sincere.  The ‘Save a Towel, Plant a Tree campaigns were taken up by hotel chains… but that was merely a marketing or cost saving campaign since no forests, planted by those respective chains, are visible on Google Earth (maps).”

In reference to last year’s MFT initiative RefillNOTlandfill, De Boer claimed hotels in Myanmar and Vietnam are introducing 130 refill water stations and hopefully destination management companies would switch from single use plastic bottle distribution to refills.

Boer says the campaign has already removed 1.2 million plastic bottles from entering into the environment.

TTR Weekly attended a tourism event on Sunday in Chiang Rai at the Le Meridien Hotel, where plastic bottles were distributed to seminar delegates. Hotel chains continue to provide conference delegates with plastic bottled water and continue to stock their mini-bars with plastic bottled drinks. They will say there are no alternatives for soft drinks.

Hilton announced recently it intends ro reduce the use of plastic straws, but the target date is 2030.

Hotels chains such as Accor, IHG and Starwood dominate the accommodation scene globally. They need to demonstrate clear leadership and announce a deadline when they will remove plastic bottles from every room in their systems.

There is a disposal cost involved in dealing with plastic bottle trash that is not being picked up by bottling plants across Asia. The throwaway process is proving to be extremely expensive for everyone except the bottling plants. Plastic bottles are only a cheap solution as long as the full cost of dealing with plastic waste is not taken into account.

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