The production of plastic is putting our health at risk all around the world, and at every step in the process from extraction to refining, use and disposal. There isn’t anywhere plastic can’t be found — our bodies, the deepest trenches of the sea, and the highest mountain peaks. Responsible travelers can make a difference by cutting out single-use plastic items like water bottles, shopping bags, coffee lids, and plastic straws. But they can also make a conscious decision to stop buying products made out of new polyester, which is typically made out of new plastics. Instead, purchase these must-pack recycled plastic products turned into fiber for polyester. 

Recycling post-consumer PET 1 (polyethylene terephthalate, the most commonly-used plastic in consumer products) plastic water bottles into polyester is one of the best ways to divert single-use plastic waste from landfills and reduce the negative impact created by the clothing industry. This is necessary as only 9 percent of all plastics ever made have been recycled. Every hour, 2.5 million plastic water bottles are thrown away. 

Stateside, six times more plastic waste is burned than recycled. Much of that plastic could be remanufactured into a variety of products perfect for traveling. Recycling could meet 60 percent of all plastic demand by reusing plastic that’s already been used at least once by 2050. The issue is that new plastic is cheaper than recycled plastic. Fortunately, these brands are recycling, reusing, and repurposing plastics.

GIRLFRIEND COLLECTIVE

Leggings are perfect for travel days and adventure travel experiences. Most leggings are made from polyester, which is a fabric made from plastic. Fortunately, each pair of Girlfriend Collective leggings saves a whopping 25 PET plastic water bottles from ending up in landfills. The upcycled polyester fabric for the compressive leggings are made from post-consumer water bottles collected in Taiwan. Girlfriend Collective also has a recycling program for their own worn-out leggings: you can turn in your old Girlfriend Collective compressive pieces and the material will be recycled for new pairs. Plus, you’ll get a $15 store credit!

SPERRY X BIONIC

All travelers need a sturdy pair of shoes that they can do just about anything in; these are a must-pack for any good adventure. The Sperry x BIONIC Collection combats waste by recycling, reusing, and repurposing single-use plastic for a durable and sustainable material. Each pair from the collection is made into BIONIC® yarn material spun from at least five post-consumer recycled plastic water bottles. The bottles were all removed from coastal environments via a partnership with Waterkeeper Alliance in an effort to address the over 8 million tons of plastic that enter our oceans each year. 

To continue their sustainability efforts, the collection uses shoe boxes made of 100 percent recycled paper materials that are printed with vegetable ink and held together with water-based glue.

SUNSKI

Sunglasses are a must-pack no matter where your travels take you. When you purchase a pair of high-performance sunglasses from Sunski, you can rest assured that they’re made from SuperLight completely recycled polycarbonate resin, repurposed from scrap plastics that would have otherwise entered US landfills. The durable frames are lightweight, affordable, and there’s absolutely no new plastic used in the product or packaging. In addition to their sustainable sourcing and packaging, they’re also a part of 1% for the planet and to date have donated $150,000 to environmental non-profits.

And if you’re worried by how often sunglasses get destroyed while traveling, Sunski has you covered with a lifetime warranty on all their frames. You can also purchase new lenses if they get scratched, because fixing items you already own is always more sustainable than replacing them with new products.

4OCEANS

For a meaningful accessory get yourself a 4ocean bracelet. The cord is recycled polyester made from plastic bottles, the beads are from recycled glass bottles, and the charm is stainless steel. The company removes a pound of trash from the ocean and coastlines for each bracelet that’s purchased. A global team works 24/7 on ocean cleanup efforts which has recovered 7.3M pounds of trash since 2017.

The bracelets are handmade in Bali and each color is associated with a different NGO that supports marine creatures at risk of getting tangled in plastic waste or eating it, both of which may kill them. Some past partnerships have included the Whale and Dolphin Conservation, SaveTheManatee Club, and Sharks Project AWARE. 4oceans is also part of 1% for the planet.

THE FORM

Whether or not you’re a traveling yogi, a yoga mat can be great to have while on the road as stretching is crucial to stay healthy — and you never know when you might need something to sleep on. FORM travel yoga mats are made with recycled plastic bottles, are super durable, and come with a shoulder strap. The top of each mat is made from recycled plastic water bottles and the base is from natural rubber. When you’ve worn the mat out, it can be recycled.

recycled plastic yoga mat by seasideUNITED BY BLUE

If you’re looking for a few travel wardrobe staples, check out the collection from outdoor brand United By Blue. The (R)evolution™ collection salvages plastic water bottles and gives them a second life by transforming them into a durable, versatile yarn for ultra-soft, long-lasting recycled polyester. Many of the brand’s clothing also uses recycled plastic in addition to organic cotton and hemp.

The brand removes a pound of trash from the world’s waterways for every product sold. Since 2010, they’ve been responsible for clearing 2.2M pounds of trash from beaches and creeks.

SAMSONITE ECO-NU

Of course, you’ll also need to place all of your recycled plastic products in a suitcase that’s sustainably made! The Samsonite Ecu-Nu luggage collection is made of Recyclex™, a fabric made from 100% post-consumer recycled materials. The 25’ expandable spinner makes use of 43 recycled PET plastic bottles which have been repurposed to create textiles for the bag. The plastic bottles are collected, sorted, sanitized, shredded, and melted into a liquid polymer which becomes the yarn that is woven into the super durable fabric. Samsonite estimates that more than 30 million 500ml PET bottles were given a second life in 2018 thanks to Recyclex™.

Do you have any favorite eco-friendly or recycled plastic travel products that we missed here? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter

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Lola Méndez
Lola Méndez is an Uruguayan-American freelance journalist writing about sustainability, travel, culture, wellness, lifestyle, and more. She's a full-time globetrotter who travels to develop her own worldview and has explored over 60 countries. Passionate about sustainable travel, she seeks out ethical experiences that benefit local communities.