At present, Cuba only recycles a tiny portion of its plastic waste. Many Cubans reuse plastic containers such as soft-drink bottles in a variety of ways, and this helps reduce the amount of plastic going directly to waste. However, due to the limited durability of such containers, this plastic inevitably ends up in landfill or as litter that pollutes the environment. Additionally, due to the increased quantities of plastic materials now reaching Cuba, a significant proportion of these materials are only used once and then thrown away. This situation escalates the need to reduce the use of all disposable plastics. In the REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE concept, it is also the first and most important measure to enact where possible.
With this in mind, Cuban Adventures has developed a 3-point strategy for travelers to reduce the amount of plastic waste they produce during their stay in Cuba. By preparing for your trip to Cuba and adopting the below 3 measures, you can help us reduce the negative effects of plastic pollution in Cuba.
1 Say No to Straws
Nearly all bars and restaurants in Cuba will serve drinks with plastic straws (not these bamboo ones that we found at a farm to table restaurant in Baracoa). Our strategy at present to address this is:
- Our tour guides instruct restaurants to serve drinks without straws to our groups.
- We ask our travelers to bring their own reusable straws with them to Cuba, if they want to have the use of a straw.
Since the implementation of this strategy we have become known as the “no straw people” in Cuba. Hopefully we will lose this nickname as more people adopt the same strategy, or Cuba outlaws single use plastics (here’s hoping!). There are some famous and very tasty drinks served in Cuba, so this is an important measure to take so that you can enjoy them without knowing you are contributing to the problem.
2 Bring a Refillable Water Bottle
This measure probably has the largest impact on reducing plastic pollution by visitors to Cuba. Since tap water in Cuba is not considered safe to drink, without a refillable water bottle, a traveler in Cuba would end up buying at least 2 plastic water bottles per day.
To help our travelers get access to safe drinking water during their trip, we’ve partnered with a local business in Havana that refills our reusable 5L water containers with high quality purified drinking water. We carry this water with us in our tour vehicle and make it available to our travelers free of charge. For group sizes above 5 participants, our tour bus comes with a mini fridge, so in these cases, the water we provide is not only purified, but it is also nice and chilled!
3 Bring a Cloth Bag
Another way you can reduce plastic waste in Cuba is by bringing along a reusable cloth bag. This can be used as a small day bag to carry your things around in, and also as a convenient way to hand over your clothes for washing at the local guesthouses. With some simple instructions, the guesthouse workers should be able to understand that you want the clothes returned inside the same bag, instead of in a plastic bag that they would have to provide you.
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