Drinking Water Responsibly on Tour:Time to Ditch Single Use Plastic Bottles

Me and my trusty water bottle

By Matt McMillan

One of the main sources of regret I have when I am travelling is the number of plastic water bottles I use. When travelling to foreign countries I’m generally unsure of the quality of local drinking water so rather than risking problems I make use of readily available plastic water bottles either provided by the hotel or purchased from the supermarket. Either way the amount of waste I am producing is shameful and whilst some hotels are now providing refill stations, this is very much the exception rather than the norm.

Plastic waste in Colombia

I took it upon myself to try and find a solution that would eliminate my use of plastic bottles. Numerous companies are now offering a huge range of filtered drink bottles which in the example I purchased offer to ‘filter out up to 99.99% of impurities, viruses and diseases from water’. These bottles aren’t cheap, generally retailing from around $50 and replacement filters (which are made out of recyclable plastic) costing from around $30 but when I factored in the money saved from not purchasing plastic bottles and the feeling of guilt free drinking I figured it was worth a try. So I purchased my bottle and headed off to Colombia to test it out.

Unfortunately I failed immediately on the plane from Sydney as I had packed my bottle in my suitcase and had to succumb to using several plastic water bottles on the way over to Dallas. From then on I persisted and am happy to say I  travelled throughout Colombia without using a single plastic water bottle. Despite warnings on many of the taps not to use the water for drinking, I trusted my filter and went illness free. I also found the filtered bottle to be far more convenient, I never ran out of water and didn’t have to run to the supermarket at midnight just to make sure I had something to drink in the evening.

Sign warning me not to drink the water!

There were small downsides to the filtered bottle over a normal bottle as you had to suck quite hard to make the water come through the filter, a minor inconvenience really. My travel companions thought I was foolish to try this and that it wasn’t worth the health risk but I am happy to say I did my small part. A quick search online paints a damning picture of the amount of plastic bottles used;

‘It is estimated that by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish.’

Source: Forbes

As an individual traveller and as a travel company specialising in promoting travel to developing countries I feel we all have a duty to do our part and consider ways to reduce our plastic usage. Filtered, refillable water bottles are an easy way to do this and for any of our clients willing to take part in this Eclipse Travel will be offering significant subsidies to encourage this so we can all contribute to a solution to this growing problem.

See our Responsible Tourism page for tips on how to limit your travel impact.