The WTTC has urged travel to redouble its efforts on tackling single-use plastic waste after a new report, produced in partnership with the United Nations, revealed the annual damage caused by plastics to marine eco-systems now amounted to $13 billion per year.
Virginia Messina, WTTC senior vice-president and acting chief executive, said the coronavirus pandemic had "accelerated the sustainability agenda", making it more important than ever businesses and policymakers were placing an even stronger focus on the issue.
The council said the report, supported by the United Nations Environment Programme, was a major first step towards developing coordinated action plans and policies to drive a shift towards "reduce and reuse" models.
“As a growing priority, businesses are expected to continue to reduce single-use plastic products waste for the future and drive circularity to protect not only our people, but importantly, our planet," said Messina.
“It is also becoming clear that consumers are making more conscious choices, and increasingly supporting businesses with sustainability front of mind.”
The WTTC said this shift was underlined by a 2019 global study on plastics, which found that more than 80% of respondents were aware of the issues posed by plastic waste and were taking action to tackle pollution.
Additionally, the WTTC claims the pandemic has had both negative and positive impacts on plastic pollution, such as increased demand for take-away services.
It cites a report from the Thailand Environment Institute, which revealed plastic waste has increased from 1,500 to 6,300 tonnes a day due to soaring home deliveries of food since the start of the pandemic.
Sheila Aggarwal-Khan, director of the UNEP’s economy division, added: "Travel and tourism has a key role to play in addressing the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, as well as making circularity in the use of plastics a reality."
“The advent of Covid-19 and consequent proliferation of single-use plastic products has added urgency to the crises. With this report, we hope to encourage stakeholders in this industry to come together to address this multifaceted challenge. Only by doing so, can we ensure meaningful and durable change."