Turbulent Travel Trash

Travel has been part of my life since I was chillin’ in my Mama’s womb.  As my family is so spread out in the world, each year travel plans are made to visit those we love and cherish, especially for Christmas.  Since I was 16 I’ve been traveling overseas on my own, never really realizing or understanding the impact this had on the planet.

We don’t need to discuss flight fuel pollution, do we?  We have become such a global nation that we truly depend on air travel to connect the world; “On average, every day more than 8 million people fly.  In 2013, total passenger numbers were 3.1 billion—surpassing the 3 billion mark for the first time ever” (IATA, 2013).  That is such a huge number I cannot even visualize it; all I can visualize is my Airbus filled with approximately 400 passengers.  Have you ever been at Heathrow airport?  That place is massive, and if you ever have the time to people watch, you’ll quickly realize you very rarely see the same person twice while walking around.

Air travel produces tons of trash besides fuel consumption; “Airplane exhaust, contains a variety of air pollutants, including sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides” (Inman, Natnl. Geogr. News).  Each passenger, specifically on a long-haul flight, receives a plastic packet with headphones, toothpaste, etc, and a plastic bag containing a blanket.  Passengers also receive a meal with each item individually wrapped in plastic packaging, plastic cutlery, and use about 1-5 plastic cups.

“Yeah, but it’s recyclable…” (me, 2015).

What recycling capabilities does an airplane and its crew have?  Carrying copious amounts of weight (don’t get me started on the size and amount of suitcases/carry-ons that people travel with) in people, cargo, and supplies, they surely do not have enough room OR TIME to have a “recycling station” on board.  What I have observed is that the crew will recycle cans and bottles from drinks.  They have very little time to clear the plane once it has landed and to make it ready for take off for its second long-haul of the day; recycling – OPTIMISTIC.

One more absurd thing I saw that my husband pointed out to me at YYC: a family of four with their suitcases triple cling-wrapped.  Bless him, he says to me, “Hey *elbow elbow*, you could blog about THAT!”  Look at that, he was right.

How I prepare for my attempted ZW long-hauls (I say attempted because even though I take all these steps in prep, somehow I still manage to produce waste):

  • bring a travel mug for use in-flight and at the airport
  • bring an extra warm jacket or sweater; no need for the thin blanket
  • bring extra socks (some airlines have added socks to their packet)
  • bring bamboo fork and spoon
  • bring my own headphones (some airlines charge for these!)
  • bring my own food; this is important!  Unfortunately, BA does not yet have an option to choose NO MEAL, so I refuse the in-flight meal and just eat whatever I bring.  Another good thing to do if you have time, eat a meal before the long-haul, and then as soon as you land; I can survive on snacks for 8 hours.
  • some more tips here: http://www.letsdoitworld.org/news/how-travel-zero-waste-style

How do you do your ZW travel?

Global traveling without an airplane?  Whaaaaaat…:

These are two dudes I have come across that travel globally, minus the air travel:  Graham Hughes, and Markus Pukonen; the latter had cross-country skied into our town and spoke to our students about his journey.  Admirable.



  1. I love this! I try and use digital boarding passes (where possible), make use of solid bar soaps and sharing toiletries, as well as bringing my own food! I love hearing other people’s zero waste travel efforts 🙂


    • In all my years of international travel I have RARELY seen ZW efforts! A handful of people I have seen with a water bottle or travel mug, but that’s been the extent. It’s crazy to think the amount one plane full creates, and then to realize just how many planes take off every day!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, was pondering this question as I fly to South Africa at least twice a year. Some of your suggestions are great, I never realized I could take a travel mug through security and bamboo fork and spoon etc. I once took the travel blanker with me off the flight because I liked it lol now I think I’ll just pack this everytime and use it on the flight.

    Wrapping your suitcases in cling wrap is something I admit I do do – Have you flown via Nairobi? JHB? Kinshasha? Dubai? Dodgy airports where your suitcase is unattended for hours whilst you wait for your connecting flight. Simply locking your suitcase is useless, but I know I need to find a better solution than cling wrap.


    • Thanks for reading and commenting! I suppose it does make sense in the security aspect with the cling wrap, but there’s got to be an alternative. I have not looked into this, so thanks for shedding some light on it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s