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Published: 18-Nov-2012

Written by: Lara Shannon

plastic and other rubbish on beach

As tourists to other countries we must be responsible for what we do with our rubbish and the amount of waste we create. Particularly in third world countries where it can be easy to think that it doesn’t matter anyway, given the amount of rubbish and pollution we can see all around us. Yet, it is in these places that we can make the most difference. It is so important that we as tourists set an example and endeavour to educate locals along the way about the need for protecting the local environment.

On our travels we can all play a role in helping locals to understand the consequences of leaving rubbish on the ground, or throwing their garbage into village rivers and waterways (which is common place), on both the local marine environment.

It is so important that we all understand the impact that our individual actions can have on the on the beaches and oceans locally, as well as globally.

In my most recent travels to countries such as Thailand and Indonesia, I found it could be as simple as saying ‘no’ to plastic bags and using my reusable bag instead – many locals asked me why I did that and, when I explained why they were interested and thank full that someone would care to do that in their country.

On my evening walks along the beach, I would collect all the plastic rubbish I could see and by the end of my travels I had some locals joining me in my evening walk to do the same. I can only hope they might continue and the numbers will grow.

Facts to consider:

  • Around 8 million items of litter enter the marine environment every day 1
  • Around 7 billion tonnes of plastic litter enter the ocean every year. 2
  • It is estimated 3 times as much rubbish is dumped into the world’s oceans annually as the weight of fish caught. 3
  • An estimated 100,000 marine mammals and turtles killed by plastic litter every year around the world. 3

How you can help:

  • Always put your rubbish securely in a bin or recycle it whenever possible.  Don't throw any litter in the street or gutter as storm water drains flow straight to the waterways.
  • Keep a carry/tidy bag in your car or your bag for your rubbishand for when you go walking near the ocean or other waterways. Every piece of litter you pick up is one less that can cause harm.
  • Cigarette butts are the single biggest litter item and are harmful to wildlife on the land and in our waterways. Always stub out your butts and put them in a bin.
  • Avoid products that are 'overpackaged' - wrapped in individual packs or several layers of plastic.
  • Say ‘no’ to plastic bags by taking along your own re-usable one on your travels or when you are at home and go shopping.
  • Take your litter home or to your hotel for recycling or disposal when visiting beaches, parks and gardens.
  • At home, secure your garbage bin lid so litter doesn’t blow free when emptied or if overfilled.

For other environmental lifestyle tips, products and news visit

Lara Shannon is Founder of and Host of Eco TV.


  1. Marine Litter - An Analytical Overview – UNEP 2005
  2. Australian Marine Conservation Society
  3. Faris, J& K. Hart (1995) Seas of Debris: A summary of the Third International Conference on Marine Debris, Alaska Fisheries Science Centre, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration

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