Time to dump plastic bottles?

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Plastic pollution on the beach in Accra, Ghana. MUNTANA CHASANT via WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Alan Payling looks at an alternative to single-use plastic bottles containing water that are sold on many coaches and suggests that dumping plastic bottles could be good for business

It’s a dilemma for people aware of the damage being done to the environment. Having taken note of what they see on television or read in their papers, having decided that it’s terrible and that something must be done, they still wonder what they can do themselves. Such decisions are occasionally made for them. A good example is the charge now made for single-use plastic bags at the supermarket checkout. This saved tonnes of unnecessary waste ending up all over the planet. But there are some that don’t believe in the issue of climate change. However, in a seismic shift of one person’s opinion, petrol head Jeremy Clarkson, the patron saint of the internal combustion engine, came out of the climate deniers’ closet a while ago. When he was in South East Asia recording the TV show ‘The Grand Tour,’ he is reported as saying that he has no doubts about climate change after seeing a dried up riverbed there. Writing in The Sunday Times, Clarkson described fishermen on the Mekong River suffering due to water shortages while he was on a boat tour of Vietnam and Cambodia. He said: “For the first time ever we’ve admitted to there being global warming. It was alarming, genuinely alarming.”

On the air pollution front, the coach trade is experiencing the consequences of stricter restrictions on emissions. In the not too distant future, coach operators will also be faced with the choice of whether to invest in new vehicles powered by electricity or another form of energy. With current government policy aiming for a carbon free economy by 2050 and with vehicles having a 20 year life, such far reaching decisions are not that far away.

But what of the other stuff which is bad for the environment and is damaging the planet now and about which there is no major disagreement: like single-use plastics? If you’re about to say what has that particular issue got to do with the coach trade, well, all anyone has to do is have a look in the locker of the average tour coach and there will be a fair bit of single-use plastic there. I am of course talking about the industry’s common practice of selling water to passengers in plastic bottles. When it comes to the issue of single-use plastic, I have noticed of late that the past practice of every pair of seats having a plastic bag available for waste has diminished considerably, possibly due to the cost of such bags. But the single-use plastic bottle for water remains a feature of the coach trade. Of course, there is a demand for this service from thirsty passengers, no doubt about that. But on a few occasions I have come across the end result. That is, a tour driver with a very big plastic bag full of empty plastic bottles dumping them into one of the large wheelie bins available at most hotels. Well, we have seen where such waste can eventually end up. You don’t need me to go on about that. So if you are continuing to think something along the lines of ‘well, what can I do about it? There isn’t an alternative is there?’ then the good news to all those green or wannabe green coach operators and tour drivers is that there is indeed a largely satisfactory alternative available now that will be kinder to the environment and will prevent passengers dying of thirst.


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