September 23, 2023 – The ‘Tourism Tackles Trash’ campaign has landed in Croatia, with the hotels in Split the first goal, says founder Tijmen Sissing.
Back in June, I was a speaker at the excellent Green Future conference in Split. One of the panels I found myself on was the role and influence of media on green issues. I stated that my experience was that while many people professed to be interested and motivated by green issues, in reality the topic was not that popular unless there was a particular campaign or human interest story.
After the panel, a young Dutchman called Tijmen Sissing introduced himself and started to tell me his story about his war on plastic pollution, and his ‘Tourism Tackles Trash’ initiative. And within 10 minutes, he had convinced me to tell the story of his new campaign right here in Croatia. This is his story and plan – who wants to get involved?
Is it time for us to rethink our travel habits? In a world where our wanderlust often leaves behind a trail of plastic waste, one individual is stepping up to make a difference. Meet Tijmen, a travel enthusiast with a mission. Tijmen, better known as the ‘Trashpacker,’ embarked on a journey for a noble mission: ‘Tourism Tackles Trash.’ His goal? To inspire hotels to replace their single-use plastics with reusables. Starting in one of Europe’s most beloved destinations, Split, Croatia.
Let’s be honest about tourism. We jet off to destinations we adore, but our affection sometimes leads to something we all know about: plastic pollution. Tijmen believes that when we explore other countries, we should be the kind of tourists who contribute instead of pollute.
Think about it – when you visit a friend’s house, you don’t go in and make a mess, do you? You bring a little something to show your appreciation. Well, Tijmen is on a mission to ensure that we treat the countries we visit with the same respect.
It all started in 2018, during his backpacking journey through Southeast Asia, when he encountered beaches full of plastic. He decided to simply clean them up. One day a local made a video of one of his cleanups, and that video went viral on Facebook with over 250,000 views in a single day. His social media presence as ‘The Trashpacker’ attracted over 10,000 followers in a week, and thousands of locals and travelers joined his Trashpacking Tours to participate in clean-up activities. This evolved into Trashpackers: a global movement involving both travelers and local communities who clean up to advocate for the reduction of single-use plastic. Together, they’ve cleaned up over 400,000 kilograms of plastic in 52 countries.
Action speaks louder than words.
Last year, Tijmen was one of the speakers at the LEAP Summit in Zagreb and used the journey to make an impact. Traveling by train, he visited universities in Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Zagreb, and Split to speak for students and doing cleanups. His visit to Split brought him to the next chapter: speaking at the Green Future Conference. During his stay at the hotel, he was surprised to find over 18 single-use plastic toiletries in his guestroom, prompting him to call several hotels in Split, all of which confirmed the presence of various disposable plastics.
Why is this so important? The numbers speak volumes. A hotel in Europe can easily generate half a million plastic items in a year. Only 9% of all the plastic waste is recycled, and it can end up in the wrong places. According to WWF, there is a 40% increase in marine litter in the Mediterranean Sea during the summer.
This inspired Tijmen with the idea of Tourism Tackles Trash, replacing single-use plastic in hotels with refillable and reusable alternatives from local suppliers. On World Cleanup Day, September 16th, Tijmen embarked on his Trashpackers Tour from the Netherlands, traveling by train to Split. There, the influencer Ribafish (Domagoj Jakopović) supports Tijmen in his mission to get the message across. Together, they will clean up in Split with kids and invite hotels from September 25th to join the plastic-free mission.
But is the environmental impact the only reason for hotels to join? Certainly not. Hotels can even save money by reducing single-use plastics, and by doing so, they can attract more customers. The green movement is growing; according to research by Booking.com, 87% of travelers want to travel sustainably. And 53% of travelers are annoyed by hotels that prevent them from being sustainable.
So, what’s the plan? Hotels can join the Tourism Tackles Trash initiative by saying goodbye to single-use plastics and implementing reusable alternatives. It’s up to every hotel how to do this. They can either join by doing this on their own, or by participating in the program from Tourism Tackles Trash for professional support, avoiding that hotels are not fixing a problem by making another.
Whether you’re a hotel ready to make a change or an eager individual, visit www.tourismtacklestrash.org and be part of the solution. Join the wave of change and ensure our travels leave a legacy of positivity.
About Tijmen Sissing
During his two-year backpacking trip in Southeast Asia, Tijmen was shocked by the beaches he found full of plastic. In July 2018, he wanted to do something about this. So he simply started to clean up beaches. Little did he know that one of his cleanups in Malaysia was filmed by some locals. That video went viral on Facebook with 250,000 views in one day. Tijmen started the page ‘The Trashpacker’ and decided to travel and clean up everywhere he goes. Within a week, his page gained over 10,000 followers. Thousands of locals and travelers joined his cleanups during the ‘Trashpacking Tours’. This reached the newspapers and television channels in several Asian countries. In just a few months, Trashpackers grew further into a global movement among travelers and the local population. As a follow up, Tijmen launched the 100,000 bin bag challenge on www.trashpackers.org. A platform where people can host their own cleanups, to help with collecting 100,000 bin bags in 1 year. The movement collected 47,000 bin bags in that year and educated over 33,000 kids about plastic pollution.
Because Tijmen strongly believes in inspiring education, he founded ‘Cruise 2 Reduce’ in 2021. This recyclebus has 4 recycling machines and can recycle plastic ‘waste’ on the spot into products, such as planters and frisbees. The recycle bus cruises around to 100 schools and organizations each year, to show the importance of reduction. Tijmen has a passion for working towards a cleaner planet. He’s still doing ‘Trashpackers Tours’ and he travels around to ignite the movement, doing waste prevention campaigns and projects, and giving inspirational talks from schools to international conferences.