How To Avoid Buying Plastic Bottles While Traveling
Our best tips on how to avoid buying plastic bottles while traveling based on our own experience backpacking through South America and Asia.
Before leaving for South America we bought two refillable, foldable water bottles and we thought we were set. We thought we were going to be able to never buy plastic bottles by refilling our lovely refillable bottles from the tap in hostels, bars and more.
We were, unfortunately very wrong and we realised it quite soon.
Photo by Dustan Woodhouse
In Chile, our first country, the water was still good in part of the country but by the middle of the month I had some stomach problems and we worried it was due to the water. At that point, there was no way for us to refill out water bottles, so we had to look into alternative ways to consume as least plastic bottles as possible.
In our quest to find solutions and understand better the complicated and mysterious world of recycling plastic, we did some research, a lot of research actually which we would like to share with you to make your life easier.
Recycling plastic is a very complex process as there are many different types of plastic made from many different types of resins. Many plastic recycling collection centres must manually sort these materials to avoid contamination.
Due to the complexity, the cost of the companies and the fact that the disposable plastic packaging market is barely regulated most plastic bottles are not recycled at all.
There are six types of plastic:
PS (Polystyrene) – Example: foam hot drink cups, plastic cutlery, containers, and yogurt.
PP (Polypropylene) – Example: lunch boxes, take-out food containers, ice cream containers.
LDPE (Low-density polyethylene) – Example: garbage bins and bags.
PVC (Plasticised Polyvinyl chloride or polyvinyl chloride)—Example: cordial, juice or squeeze bottles.
HDPE (High-density polyethylene) – Example: shampoo containers or milk bottles.
PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) – Example: fruit juice and soft drink bottles.
Currently only PET, HDPE, and PVC plastic products are recycled. Which means that PS, PP and LDPE are not recycled in any way because these materials get easily stuck in the recycling facilities causing damages to the machines.
What can we do as travellers
The complexity of recycling plastic is evident and also evident is the need for a proper regulation of the market from government. The obvious way to reduce or end plastic pollution sits in the hands of government and companies, but this does not leave us, consumers powerless. In a world where we are surrounded by selfish capitalist interests and very light long term vision, we can always choose. We can choose where we spend our money and we can choose the type of purchases and lifestyle we decide to live.
We have put together a small list of products and ideas to help you reduce your usage of plastic bottles while traveling. None of these are sponsored, we just believe in they are amazing!
Always carrying a refillable water bottle and filling it up in hotels, hostels, restaurants etc
Look for and only buy 100% recycled water bottles
Buy bigger size water bottles (7L) and refill your portable water bottle during the day
The option that worked best fo us and that totally changed the way we travel and the environmental impact we have, has been investing in the Grayl portable water purifier. This water purifier looks like a refillable water bottle which you can carry with your everywhere, but has a powerful purifier cartridge at the bottom of the press which kill all pathogens. You can purify any non salted water, coming from a river or from a sketchy tap. This means that even if you are hiking in the middle of the forest you will never be without water. Since we had the Grayl we never had to buy another plastic bottle.
Don't forget that every little action counts. It is not about being perfect but rather about doing our best to contribute and have a positive impact!
Any question, feedback or suggestion on how to do even more is very welcomed in the messages below.