Wherever you go, you’ll need water to drink. I am fortunate to live in a place where clean, potable water is always available. Just open your tap, put a glass under the stream and it’s ready to drink! Actually, the Netherlands is one of the few countries where tap water isn’t chlorinated. That’s how privileged I am, as a Dutchy. And we get to avoid plastic bottles easily.
In most parts of the world, there’s no potable tap water available. Consuming this water aids the spread of a significant amount of diseases. Say hello to travelers diarrhea or unwanted parasites! Therefore, as tourists with Western guts, we are surrendered to buying, purified, bottled water. Even locals are dependent on bottled water.
What to do if you don’t want to leave a trail of plastic bottles behind you?
I mean, even recycling rates in Europe aren’t at 100%. Most European countries do not even make it to 40%, as stated in this article (slide 37). Let alone if you find yourself in a lesser developed part of the world. These plastic bottles end up in some landfill, river and eventually in the ocean…
A quick calculation.
This used to be a typical day for me while being in a non-Western country. Or even in European countries where I didn’t like the taste of the chlorinated water… Like many others, I try to drink at least 1.5L water, especially in humid places. And I use an additional 0.5L to brush my teeth or wash fruits. Let’s assume I’m going on a 30-day trip. Meaning I’ll need 60L of potable water in these 30 days. This equals to a hundred-and-twenty(!) 0.5L bottles in one month. Just for one person…
Here are a few tips that are working for me during my travels. Keep these in mind if you want to minimize the use of plastic bottles on the road.
The bigger the better
More volume equals less plastic! So, the first tip is to buy water in larger quantities. The best option I came across? Gigantic, 19L, bottles of purified water. I’ve encountered them all across South-East Asia (Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, and Indonesia). These containers can be bought in almost every local store. When empty, they can be handed in at the same stores. These bottles get picked-up and transported to a factory where they get cleaned, refilled and closed again. The perfect example of re-usage! If you tend to stay in one place for a few days: consider buying a bottle like this. Even if you don’t manage to empty it in time, donate the water to your host or the next guests.
Communicate with your hostel or guesthouse
What if I told you that communication goes a long way. Even locals can’t drink the tap water in many countries. The same goes for your hotel staff: they probably use purified water too. It’s an easy task to ask if you can refill your bottle in your hostel. And when you do ask, explain why. Elaborate why you do not want to contribute to the usage of daily new plastic bottles. From my experience, they will understand since plastic pollution is even clearer in poorer countries. Landfills are out in the open, river banks are polluted with plastic and many try to burn plastic along the roads.
Pack a reusable water bottle
I mentioned this before but I can’t stress it enough. There’re plenty of places where you can refill your own brought bottle. Take it along with you and keep your eyes open for points where you can refill your bottle. That way you’ll always have a water stash available. No need to buy plastic bottled water on the road!
I get it. Sometimes you just can’t get around drinking from plastic bottles. But please make sure that after use, you dispose of them correctly instead of letting them linger around in somewhere in nature (like how I found the 2 bottles in my header image)… In the end, these few tips kept me from using as less plastic as possible.
Do you have any other tips to minimize plastic bottles during travels?