It’s no secret that plastic water bottles are bad for the environment, but what about the health risks of plastic? A new study captured global attention for this exact issue when it revealed the astronomical volume of nanoplastics found in just one liter of bottled water–to the tune of 240,000 pieces.
While there is still much to understand about how nanoplastics impact our health, the results are causing many to reconsider their relationship with single-use plastic water bottles…including the hospitality industry.
Due to the environmental impact of plastic and increasing pressure from guests to implement more sustainable practices, luxury hotels have spent years investing in greener alternatives. In Hawaii, in particular, which grapples with the pressure of balancing its economically-significant tourism industry with environmental preservation, the battle against single-use plastics is at the forefront of many hotel sustainability practices.
As if there wasn’t reason enough to phase out single-use plastic at luxury hotels in Hawaii, this latest revelation about nanoplastics will surely tip the scales toward alternatives that are both environmentally-friendly and healthy.
New Study Focuses Attention on the Health Risks of Plastic
The study, published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in early January, developed a cutting-edge imaging technique to identify the number of nanoplastic particles in bottled water. The results–240,000 pieces per liter of bottled water–were nearly 10 to 100 times higher than originally estimated.
This study is considered an important step in understanding the impact that exposure to nanoplastics will have on our bodies. Many scientists who study plastic believe that the smaller the particle size, the more dangerous it may be. At less than one micrometer in size, nanoplastics are as tiny as a speck of dust and undetectable to the naked eye, meaning they may be small enough to easily enter cells in our body.
While there is still much to learn about nanoplastics specifically, we do already know that the health risks of plastic chemicals are concerning, with links found to increased blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, as well as potential interference with fertility and hormones.
Additionally, research has shown that nanoplastics can cross the blood-brain barrier, enter the placenta, and appear in our urine. Some researchers have even theorized that nanoplastics may be responsible for disease patterns that are otherwise unexplainable, like colorectal cancer in young people or the uptick in Crohn’s disease.
As researchers work to better understand the exact implications that nanoplastics have on our health, there are steps we can take now to reduce our exposure. Many of these steps–like drinking filtered water or using on-the-go bottles made from materials like aluminum or glass–are already in place at Hawaiian hotels. Originally, these steps were taken for the benefit of the environment, but with this new research on nanoplastics, the benefits now extend to the health and safety of guests, too.
How Hawaiian Resorts Are Addressing the Environmental Impact of Plastic
Plastic waste is a global crisis, with nearly 300 million tons generated annually and 11 million tons residing in our oceans. Unfortunately for Hawaii, its position in the Pacific Ocean makes it a high-impact target for marine debris. Nearly 15-20 tons of marine trash washes onto Hawaii’s shores each year, 96% of which is plastic.
Plastic debris from all over the world is found on Hawaii’s beaches, a far cry from the white sandy beaches it is known for. In fact, Kamilo Beach, located on the southern tip of the Big Island, is considered one of the dirtiest beaches in the world and often referred to as “plastic beach.”
Plastic pollution is also detrimental to marine wildlife, especially smaller particles which are often mistaken for food. When animals ingest plastic, they think they are full, which causes them to starve to death. In Hawaii, several native species are under threat of extinction because of plastic pollution, including the Hawaiian monk seal and the hawksbill turtle.
Recognizing the devastating environmental impact of plastic, Hawaii has taken several important steps to reduce this waste. It was the first state to ban plastic grocery bags in 2015, and Honolulu currently prohibits all single-use plastic food containers and utensils. The Hawaiian legislature is also working on a bill to ban single-use plastic toiletry bottles, and in many cases, individual hotels and resorts have their own policies in place, as well.
Initiatives targeted at plastic at Hawaiian hotels and resorts include using biodegradable trash bags in guest rooms, placing reusable shopping bags in wardrobes, creating guest experiences targeting plastic pollution like beach clean-ups, and replacing single-use plastics like keycards, straws, and water bottles with sustainable alternatives.
Why Alternatives to Plastic Water Bottles Are the New Standard of Luxury
Luxury hotels are important players in the sustainable tourism space, with many investing in important initiatives to meet the growing demands of eco-conscious travelers. In order for these initiatives to succeed, though, it is imperative that they maintain a sense of luxury and do not take away from the overall guest experience. (For more on this “rise of conscious luxury,” check out our recent blog post).
The Prince Waikiki is a prime example of a Hawaiian resort striking the perfect balance between luxury and sustainability. This pristine, oceanfront resort located in Honolulu is committed to honoring Hawaii’s rich history and environment through sustainable practices that are additive to the guest experience.
This is what initially inspired the resort to partner with Mananalu and create a hydration experience for guests that is effortless and environmentally-friendly. Through this partnership, each guest room will feature two of Mananalu’s 22 ounce water bottles, made from sturdy aluminum that is reusable throughout the course of their stay–and beyond. State-of-the-art water filtration systems are also available throughout the resort, so refilling is effortless.
With the release of this new study on nanoplastics, plastic water bottles are no longer just an environmental concern to luxury travelers. Now, it’s a matter of their health, too. Mananalu’s upcoming partnership with the Prince Waikiki offers an easily replicable hydration option for luxury hotels that meets the standards of discerning travelers, while simultaneously addressing both the health risks of plastic and the environmental impact of plastic.