Last week, three ISLANDS students attended the finale of CAPonLITTER, an Interreg Europe project in partnership with ULPGC’s ECO AQUA institute, Travel Without Plastic, Cabildo Fuerteventura, and Fuerteventura Patronato del Turismo. 

At the event, hotel and resort managers presented their progress, pitfalls, and plans for continuing the reduction of plastic waste in their daily operations. We heard about strategies to reduce plastic waste without compromising on guest comfort, like shifting single serving coffee creamers to be available on request only, and replacing keurig coffee machines to a more traditional, plastic free espresso machine. 

One resort also replaced their supply of butter from single serving plastic containers to larger, foil wrapped packages and swapped their disposable baking tins for aesthetic, reusable ceramic baking pans. Not only was the result more sustainable, but it also added to the visitor experience. As observers, the presentations highlighted that because Fuerteventura is both a luxury and ecotourism destination, reusable cook- and tableware adds to the marketability of a hotel and resort experience, as well as to its sustainability. 

Also at the event were a variety of local businesses representing products that could aid hotels and resorts in their path away from plastic. Some highlights were Xeira, a company offering single use shampoo, body wash, and body oil in convenient and completely plastic-free packages. Simple innovations like these offer hotels and resorts – a key part of the Fuerteventura economy – opportunities to drastically reduce plastic use while still offering the level of comfort and convenience that guests expect.

Of course sustainability professionals do not only discuss the successes. We heard from industry practitioners about some challenges that we as students may not have considered; for example, resorts who replace single-use cups with reusable cups often find that visitors may continue to throw reusable cups away, or take them home as souvenirs. Not only is this an added cost for hotel and resort managers, but the product is not used often enough to offset the environmental impact of producing and distributing it in the first place. 

We also heard from Jo Hendrickx, founder of Travel Without Plastic, about how to spot greenwashing and select products that genuinely do reduce plastic waste and greenhouse gas emissions. She went over some key labels and certifications to look for, and important distinctions such as whether a product is compostable at home, or compostable only in an industrial composter. 

In addition to celebrating the progress of participating hotels and resorts, the finale of the Fuerteventura CAPonLITTER Project was a great way to connect with the sustainable tourism ecosystem within the Canary Islands, and to foster local connections between businesses owners, organizers, researchers, and students alike. 

Read more about CAPonLITTER in Fuerteventura:

Text and photo by
Ena Peeva
Hannah Kasak-Gliboff
Jody Holland
Students in the 2022 and 2023 intake of the ISLANDS programme