Reducing plastic waste at source

The Problem

Single-use plastics took centre stage in the environmental debate last year, thanks to the likes of Blue Planet II and a swathe of online videos that went viral showing the sheer volume ending up in our oceans and communities.

The world is getting smaller and the problem is getting bigger; an estimated 50 billion plastic bottles alone end up in landfill or the oceans every year.

In the UK and other rich countries, lots of different types of plastic bottles containing everyday items such as water, shower gel, aerosols and cleaning products can be recycled. Advances in technology, awareness and funding mean record amounts of products are now used again and do not end up incinerated or in landfill.

However, this is not the case in many poor and middle-income countries, many of which are in Africa, where it is common to find low levels of recycling against a backdrop of high levels of waste, much of which is easily visible in and around towns and villages. The problem is exacerbated by a chronic lack of funding, which disproportionately impacts poorer communities, who more likely to live in or around excessive volumes of waste, which increases the threat of disease, particularly to young and vulnerable people.

1 recycled tin can saves enough energy to power a TV for 3 hours

1 recycled plastic bottle saves enough energy to power a lightbulb for 3 hours

1 recycled glass bottle saves enough energy to power a computer for 25 mins

The Solution

It is vital that volunteers make every reasonable effort to travel responsibly by reducing the amount of plastic purchased at source and bring home items that can be recycled in the UK. The positive impact that our volunteer programme has on our host communities can be compromised if the volume of avoidable waste we leave behind negatively impacts the lives of people we support.

Top tips for helping:

  • Bring home your toiletries bottles.
  • Check to see if things you put in the bin can be recycled at home.
  • Take a reusable water filter bottle to avoid buying bottled water.
  • If you have space in your luggage, bring back plastic you know can be recycled at home.
  • Consider buying souvenirs that are made from recycled materials; ask your Trip Host for more information.