Tourism and single-use plastic: A mismatched combination

The tourism industry must move away from single-use plastic alternatives to protect the environment, experts have said at an event.

They were speaking in a virtual meeting organized by Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO) to discuss a strategy on phasing out single-use plastic products on Wednesday.

All airlines, hotels, motels, and restaurants must stop using single-use plastic and eliminate unnecessary plastic packaging for the good of the environment, said Syed Marghub Murshed, former secretary in the government of Bangladesh and president of ESDO.

The demand for single-use plastics items has increased with safety being a high concern amid the pandemic among tourists and take-away services being on the rise.

Single-use products are one of the main causes of pollution.

Plastic makes up 73% of beach litter worldwide, according to National Geographic, and 85% of floating trash and 45% to 95% of litter are found on the seafloor in the Mediterranean Sea.

Tourists are both responsible for the development of waste and are repulsed by the quality of the destination’s environment, creating this double dilemma.

Keya Khan, additional secretary at the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, stated that tourist hotspots and many other places are constantly being polluted with rubbish, including polythene, empty plastic bottles, and packets left scattered by tourists.

“We have to work with a holistic approach. We cannot achieve anything only by enforcement, the stakeholders have to be aware as well to stop pollution caused by single-use plastic,” she said.


Jabed Ahmed, chief executive officer of the Bangladesh Tourism Board, said that Cox’s Bazar and Kuakata were popular tourist destinations not only in Bangladesh but also worldwide. “These areas are being contaminated by plastic frequently.”

Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh and Chief Executive, BELA, said: “At this moment, we cannot think about a plastic-free economy. However, we have to start thinking about alternative approaches or we will fail to protect our biodiversity and environment.”

Bangladesh Plastic Association’s President Shamim Ahmed said: “Along with tourism, the airline sector also needs to choose single-use plastic alternatives. Internationally, flight agencies are pledging to move towards plastic-free service. I think we can learn from that and work on it.”


Dr Shahriar Hossain, secretary-general of ESDO and one of the guest speakers of the event, said Bangladesh, one of the first countries to enact a law prohibiting the use of polythene bags, had failed to implement and control polythene pollution over the years.

Among others, Siddika Sultana, executive director of ESDO; Syed Ghulam Qadir, vice president of Bangladesh Outbound Tour Operators Association; Syed Mahbubul Islam Bulu, technical advisor of ESDO, faculty members from different universities, and small entrepreneurs were present at the event.