How To Travel Without Using Single Use Plastic

Love travelling? Want to make the world less plastic-y?

Inspired by docs like Blue Planet or Drowned in Plastic to change your disposable plastic ways?

We’ve partnered with Better Places Travel to highlight 7 easy ways to go plastic free while you’re on holiday and highlighted the organisations who are working to do more.

Let’s get started in sidelining single use plastic.

Sustainable travel can be a massive source for good.

When done right, travel brings income to otherwise impoverished communities and contributes to a cultural exchange between local and traveller.

Responsible travellers hope to leave more than footprints behind, they hope to leave the destination a bit better than when they arrived.

This is often possible when the right choices are made: for small-scale accommodation, responsible excursions, off-the-beaten path destinations.

On top of that, more and more travellers are choosing to forego single-use plastic when travelling, in an attempt to minimise their plastic waste on destination.

Is this really a problem?

In short, yes. Documentaries like Blue Planet and Drowning in Plastic have shown even armchair travellers that plastic waste has a massive impact on the environment when it comes to travel.

The average traveller will use 30 single-use plastic bottles during a two-week trip away.

If you consider that a popular destination like Bali receives more than four million visitors each year, you can see how single-use plastic waste is one of the biggest issues facing the tourism industry.

While this problem is bigger than one traveller alone, there is a lot that can be done by you.

How To Travel Without Using Single Use Plastic

1. Pack a refillable water bottle

In many countries it’s possible to drink water straight from the tap. Visit Is the water safe to drink to find out where this is possible.

2. Boil your water first or purify tap water with a water filter

In countries where it may not be safe to drink tap water, it is still well worth bringing your refillable water bottle and filling it up from a large water tank or with boiled or filtered/purified water.

Letting water boil for just one minute is enough to get rid of all impurities. It’s a great solution if you have access to a kettle and time to let the water cool. If you don’t, there are on-the-go options for purification of water as well, such as the Steripen. The Steripen handheld UV water purification system can be used directly in your own refillable water bottle and has been tested to remove 99.9% of all waterborne bacteria and viruses.

Click here to read about how ‘guerilla humanitarian’ travellers are getting simple water filters to disaster zones.

3. Use an all-in/one press system like the Grayl or LifeStraw

Another great on-the-go option for travellers is to use an all-in (bottle and filter) purification system like the Grayl or LifeStrawGo.

The Grayl removes all waterborne bacteria and viruses as well as many chemicals and heavy metals, while the LifeStrawGo removes 99.9999% of all waterborne bacteria and protozoa, but not viruses or chemicals.

4. Say no to the free plastic water bottles

Give any single-use plastic water bottles from your accommodation or excursion provider a pass. While well meaning, the single-use plastic bottle is one of the biggest sources of plastic pollution in developing tourist destinations. Opt for refilling your own reusable bottle from the tap, a large water cooler, or use an all-in purification bottle for the days when you’re on the road.

5. Skip the straw

When ordering a drink in a restaurant, ask for it without a plastic straw or bring your own metal straw with you. While some people do need plastic straws to help them, the majority of us have no real need.

Click here for our favourite plastic free straw alternatives.

6. Don’t touch the mini toiletries

Bring your own bottle of shampoo or shower gel on your travels, or even better, a bar of (shampoo) soap.

16 Must-Have Eco-Friendly Toiletries For Travel

7. Bring your own bag

When shopping for (sustainable) souvenirs or simply groceries, try to always remember to bring your own reusable shopping bags.

Many countries have already said no to disposable single-use plastic bags (way to go Kenya and Rwanda); until the rest of the world follows suit make sure to do your bit and say no to (free) plastic bags – both at home and on your travels.

But it’s not all on you…

Like Kenya, Costa Rica and Rwanda, more and more countries are coming up with initiatives to reduce plastic waste.

The traveller cannot do it alone, and it’s great to see not only governments but bottom-up initiatives taking the problem seriously and coming up with viable solutions.

Scroll down for worldwide initiatives

Refill Not Landfill

A Cambodia-based initiative, where a number of hotels have joined forces to reduce the amount of single-use plastic waste. Travellers can purchase and refill reusable bottles in hotels, and are able to refill their bottle in various Google Maps-marked locations.

Refill My Bottle

Starting out in Bali, RefillMyBottle now covers several islands in Indonesia as well as parts of Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and even Myanmar. An online map and app that marks all the places where travellers can walk in and refill their bottle (for free, or for a small fee), RefillMyBottle is taking great steps to combat plastic pollution on the Island of the Gods (and beyond) and creating a community of like-minded responsible travellers through its app.

Travellers Against Plastic

An online campaign that educates global travelers on the harmful impacts of plastic water bottles on the environment and encourages travellers to carry their own reusable water bottle as well as treat their own water.

They provide tips for travelers and gather pledges from tour operators and accommodations, as they promote alternatives to disposable plastic water bottles.

Travel Without Plastic

This initiative that helps hotel accommodations around the world reduce or eliminate their single-use plastic waste.

They help owners and managers train their staff on how to operate more sustainably while maintaining standards of health, safety and quality and then communicate this to their customers. By providing practical and easy-to-apply tips, they are helping transform the hotel and travel world when it comes to limiting single-use plastic waste.

Ready to go?

And then there are sustainable travel companies. What are they doing to combat plastic waste?

Take Better Places Travel. A relative newcomer, this originally Dutch startup is making great strides when it comes to responsible travel.

One of the first travel companies to become B Corporation certified, Better Places Travel aims to go completely single-use plastic bottle free on all their trips.

An ambitious goal, that’s for sure, but then when was anything big achieved without a healthy dose of ambition?! Join Better Places Travel and a growing community of responsible travellers around the globe, and make your next trip as plastic-free as possible!