We need to have a rubbish revolution in tourism

Let’s talk about rubbish. As in discarded rubbish – especially discarded rubbish left in our areas of nature. Specifically wet wipes, hygiene products and sanitary items. This is specifically about Mongolia but also applies to wilderness areas in other countries.
We have just completed our annual two-day rubbish clean-up of a national park here in Mongolia. And yes, there were plastic bottles and vodka bottles. But the biggest offender by far was bloody wet wipes and sanitary items. But this doesn’t just apply to Mongolia – I have also seen these same items discarded in other countries as well including the national parks of the UK.
Our wilderness areas and our wilderness experiences are being spoilt by encountering soiled hygiene products left behind by others. Putting them under a rock, or shoving them down a tree root hole does not count as disposing of them responsibly.
I appreciate that no-one (seems) to feel comfortable talking about it, but I’m going to say it: We need to have a discussion about it … about how and where we take a s*** whilst on a run or a hike or a horse trek or a mountain bike ride. We need to have a discussion on how to dispose of sanitary or hygiene products responsibly or about the possibility of using a menstrual cup. We need to have a discussion that standard wet wipes are rarely biodegradable. We actually need to have a discussion on that even toilet paper should be packed out whenever possible, as it could not have arrived there naturally.
Proactive education is the solution. Just think … if each tourism company … whether that be a sole guide, a tourist driver, a firm offering day rentals of mountain bikes or kayaks or a large international company covering many countries each gave a ‘toilet talk’ to their guests reminding them to not discard their sanitary waste but to bag it and take it with them until they could bin it. Or, if each tourism company could provide a trowel so that their guests could dig a cathole to bury their s***.
It’s what we here at Eternal Landscapes do – both the ‘toilet talk’ and providing the trowel. My trip assistants are trained to give a simple basic toilet talk at the start of each trip. True, they sometimes forget or sometimes our guests just don’t listen or feel uncomfortable with the idea, or the trowels go missing. True, we don’t always remind guests of the rule to walk 70 adult steps from a water source. But it is a start.
We can either complain about it or we can do something positive to change it. We all have a choice. Make your choice the right one. Join us in our rubbish revolution.

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