Recycling and Upcycling for Travelers


Whether we’re venturing to the rural outskirts of town or to the edge of a distant continent, more of us are traveling than ever before. With places around the world enjoying increased foot traffic, it is more important for then ever to reduce our carbon footprint and travel responsibly. This means that we must ensure that we leave the places we visit just as beautiful as when we arrived.

Source: Swissotel

Recycling & Upcycling for Travellers

Produced by Swissotel Hotels & Resorts

Plastic Bottles:

Water bottles are essential companions to every traveler and because drinkable tap water or reusable bottles aren’t always available, we must often resort to disposable plastic bottles during our trips. While plastic bottles are one of the most commonly polluted items in the world, the ones we buy don’t have to go to waste.

Recycle Plastic Bottles: Only 5% of plastics produced are recovered. 1500 plastic water bottles are consumed every second in the US alone. PET plastics are 100% recyclable and this plastic is not biodegradable. When exposed to the elements over time it breaks down into tiny fragments, contaminating soil and waterways.

What Can I do to help? 

  • In countries with drinkable tap water, bring your own BPA-free refillable bottle
  • Aim to recycle used plastic bottles
  • Carry a water purifier or refillable bottle with built-in purifying filters
  • Instead of purchasing small disposable bottles, buy large containers and refill your bottle.

Upcycle Plastic Bottles: Turn your plastic water bottle into a self-watering planter.

You will need:

  • Marker
  • Plastic bottles with cap
  • Scissors
  • Utility knife
  • Potting soil
  • Herb seedlings


  1. Remove the label by leaving the bottle in warm water for a few minutes
  2. Mark 12cm (4.7 inches) from the bottle’s base, then cut all the way around the bottle
  3. Remove the cap, turn the top section vertically and insert into the base
  4. Fill the top section with soil and add your seeds
  5. Follow the care instructions for the plant and add water as needed to the planters base

Leading the way:

  • In Beijing, commuters can pay for subway tickets with plastic bottles
  • In many countries. including Germany, Estonia and The Netherlands, consumers pay a deposit for drink containers, which gets refunded when the container is handed in to a recycling point

Plastic Sunscreen Lotion Bottles

Whether our travels take us to the beach, the pool or for long walks through the city, sunscreen is essential to limit our exposure to UV rays and therefore finds its way into the luggage of most travelers. Many do not realize that chemicals in sunscreen contribute to coral bleaching, harm marine life and are a serious cause of pollution worldwide. Not to mention that sunscreen bottles are a major source of plastic pollution and waste.

Recycle Plastic Sunscreen Lotion Bottles: Plastics account for 80% of all floating marine debris in oceans worldwide. 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen wash off our skin and into the oceans annually. 10% of all coral reefs have been damaged by the impact of sunscreen pollution.

What can I do to help?

  • Opt for an eco-friendly and reef-safe sunscreen lotion
  • Seek out sunscreen bottles that are recyclable and biodegradable
  • Always recycle the plastic sunscreen bottles you use and urge others to do the same
  • Stop buying travel-sized disposable bottles. Instead, use your own refillable containers

Upcycle Plastic Sunscreen Lotion Bottles: Turn your empty sunscreen bottles into hanging storage bins

You will need:

  • Empty sunscreen bottle
  • Paper
  • Sand paper
  • Drill
  • Piece of wood board
  • Scissors
  • Marker
  • Hooks


  1. Remove all labels from your container
  2. Mark out cutting lines on the bottle
  3. Clean the edges and pierce a circular hole in the top of the body so that it can hang straight
  4. Prepare a wood (or other material) backboard, and hang your sun screen cups on with pins or tacks

Leading the way

  • In Switzerland recycling is typically free, but the public might get charged for throwing away trash that will end up in landfills or incinerators. So the less you waste, the less you pay.
  • International coastal cleanup day falls annually on the 3rd Saturday of September and is held in 90 countries worldwide, including the US, Ecuador, Peru, Singapore and Thailand. Save the date!


For lazy days on the beach and on lang haul flights, books are every word-loving adventurer’s must-have travel companion. While they may seem innocuous enough, books, too have a major environmental impact. It is our duty, therefore to reuse and recycle them in responsible ways as we journey across the globe

Recycle Books: Because of the glue used in their binding, hardcover books cannot be placed in paper recycling, paperbacks, however are fully recyclable.

What can I do to help?

  • Trade old books with friends rather than discarding them
  • After reading a book, donate it to libraries or charities
  • Before putting hardcover books in the recycle bin, be sure to remove the spines and their glue
  • Opt for books made from 100% recycled paper

Upcycle Books: Turn a pile of books into a planter.

You will need:

  • A minimum of 3 books
  • A set of binder clips
  • Craft knife
  • Environmentally friendly glue


  1. Draw a square onto the cover of the books and attach binder clips to the book to keep the pages stationary
  2. Use a craft knife to cut all the way through each of them
  3. Coat all of the inside and outside loose (non-spine) edges with environmentally friendly glue to create a block
  4. Once dry, glue a plastic lining into the center space. Put your new “planter” on top of the rest of your old books, fill with soil and the plant or seeds you wish to grow

Leading The Way

  • Germany boasts one of the world’s most successful recycling infrastructures, particularly when it comes to paper. With different colored bins throughout the country designated for particular kinds of waste. Blue bins specifically for books and other paper products.
  • Each month, most towns in Switzerland have a paper collection where cardboard and paper is picked for free


Needless to say, suitcases are a necessity for travelers, yet we rarely pause to consider how they impact the environment. Because of their size, suitcases are rarely recycled and so many of them end their journeys in landfills. They doesn’t have to be the case. Check with your local recycling center to learn if your suitcase is made from recyclable materials. If not, upcycle it.

Recycle Suitcases: You can organize your closet by storing winter/summer clothes that are out of season in old suitcases.

What can I do to help?

  • Never throw away a useable suitcase. Rather, donate it to a charity or give it away to friends and family
  • Only buy suitcases made from recycled materials by environmentally responsible manufacturers
  • Outfit your luggage with protection to ensure it lasts longer
  • Stop buying unnecessary luggage when the ones you have are still functional

Upcycle Suitcases: Turn your old suitcase into a bed for pets

You will need:

  • An old suitcase
  • A pillow and pillowcase
  • 4 Screws
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Drill


  1. Give the case a good clean and separate the two parts of it
  2. Measure and mark the base where you want the ‘feet’ to be
  3. Drill a hole at the mark and attach the feet with screws
  4. Turn the ‘bed’ around and make sure it is stable. Put a fluffy pillow on top

Leading the Way

  • In China, a farmer has been using old suitcases to come up with a motorized, drive able suitcase that is capable of carrying two people and can run up to 12.5 mph (20 km/h)
  • On the 5th of June every year, World Environment Day is celebrated around the world to raise awareness of the need to preserve the environment. Each year, a selected country hosts the celebration.