Two Seattle-based travel companies, Crooked Trails and Wildland Adventures, launched a global initiative called Travelers Against Plastic (TAP) today to spread awareness about the world-wide impacts of disposable plastic water bottles, and to garner support from outbound tour operators to have their clients carry re-useable water bottles and a SteriPEN or filtering system, the next time they travel abroad.
The call to action is for everyone to go to the website www.travelersagainstplastic.org where they can sign a pledge to avoid purchasing bottled water while traveling, display the TAP logo and confirm with TAP how many travelers they feel they have informed and influenced (tour operators and the travel industry). Members of the PNW tourism industry as well as representatives from the Adventure Travel Trade Association, and The International Ecotourism Society came to the downtown Seattle Columbia store to support the initiative and help spread the word.
“Responsible travelers do not want to leave a trail of disposable water bottles behind them but many don’t know how to avoid it,” says Chris Mackay who spearheaded the TAP campaign and is Co-founder of Crooked Trails. “If we look at how many Americans travel abroad each year, and calculate three bottles of water a day for a two-week trip, that translates to over 3.4 billion plastic water bottles that need to be disposed of just because of our outbound travel industry and we want to do something about it.”
And for popular destinations in developing countries the problem is compounded by the lack of recycling facilities. Mexico remains the most popular foreign destination, with 3.3 million U.S. visitors in the first two months of the year. Recycling experts say that only about one-eighth of the 21.3 million plastic water and soft drink bottles that are emptied each day in Mexico get recycled.
Both Klean Kanteen and SteriPEN have joined the TAP campaign and a portion of the sale of every TAP Klean Kanteen bottle goes back to TAP, helping to reduce the trail of plastic waste left by travelers. The SteriPEN utilizes the power of ultraviolet light to eliminate over 99.9% of bacteria, viruses and protozoa that cause water-borne illness.
“It is our responsibility as tour operators to educate our clients that simple steps like bringing reusable water bottles and a SteriPen or filtering system will make a huge difference to the communities we visit and even sends a message to local residents that they can do the same thing, “ says Kurt Kutay, founder and CEO of Wildland Adventures. “As well as the issues around disposing the garbage left behind, feeding the bottled water industry takes three times as much water than is produced, therefore it takes a toll on wells in rural communities by draining aquifers, lowering lake levels, and hurting wetlands.”
“One SteriPEN can clean up to 16,000 bottles of water. And it is often healthier and safer than bottled water in countries where the water treatment is unknown,” says Mackay. “When you add in the cost and energy it takes to create bottled water, it just makes more sense from the the impacts to local communities and environment to travel with a reusable water bottle prepared to treat your own water.”
This is an initiative that can work at home as well. According to the “Plastics Unwrapped” exhibit currently at the Burke Museum until May 27th, 1,500 disposable plastic water bottles are used every second in the US. Tap water is just as healthy and costs about 500 times less per quart. Most plastic waste in the ocean was discarded on land, and then carried by winds and rivers to the sea. Once there, it poses risks to wildlife, navigation, health, and the environment.