Has COVID-19 impacted on the hospitality industry’s love of plastic?


For years now, we’ve been fully aware of the environmental impact that plastic can have on the world we inhabit. It has gone from the convenient all-in-one solution to a damaging synthetic creation that has huge impacts on the quality of our environment. And while many have been crushed by the impact of COVID-19, some hoped that one positive would be the restoration of a more ethical, friendly approach to the environment. Especially in the hospitality industry, where plastic usage is rife, there was some hope that, in time, changes would take place that would make the environment safer.

The love of single-use plastics in the travel industry has been a hidden horror for years, and no amount of reporting or storytelling about the intensity of the damage being done would ever really be enough. Plastic pollution has shown to be harmful for the world, and also likely for people. So, the fact that the travel industry is such a huge contributor to plastic pollution has long been a source of scorn for many. Has COVID-19, then, brought any kind of reduction in this impact?

Unfortunately, it does not look like much is changing. Sure, there will be less of an impact just due to the sheer weight of people not traveling. However, the actual use of single-use plastic items – and personal protective equipment – is not going to be going down much at all during the era of COVID-19. Instead of finding a more eco-friendly solution while the travel industry is on a downturn, the old ways are still accessible and being practiced.

Indeed, it is estimated that a shocking 120 billion-plus face masks are being used across the globe on a monthly basis. This is simply unsustainable, especially given that most masks are made from synthetic material which will take years to break down. That is going to become a huge problem for society in the years to come – while minimizing some single-use plastics, the rise of PPE has seen a new problem.

How can we stop the problem?

A common symptom of the issue today is that many restaurants and bars are using single-use disposable items to give out to customers. Since we aren’t really able to share things like we used to, the use of many single-use items which are fully disposable after use has become prevalent. Far from cutting back on the use of plastics, many companies are actually increasing the use of single-use items.

In a bid to make things convenient, companies are doing everything they can to bring back customers looking for a good time. Sadly, this means committing to a massive amount of problematic issues – not least the development of content that is surely going to hurt the environment. While we hoped COVID-19 would have a positive impact on our commitment to wastage, it looks like most businesses – in a bid to stay afloat – are offering convenience today at the cost of the environment tomorrow.