Plastic waste: 980 tonnes of travel-sized products are dumped every year

  • 15.5 million UK adults have purchased travel size toiletries in the last 12 months
  • 980.8 tonnes of plastic waste produced by travel miniatures every year – equivalent to two-and-a-half Boeing 747s
  • Plastic waste - standard size products contain 5.1ml of fluid per gram of packaging, compared to just 2.7ml of fluid per gram in travel packaging

New research1 from Direct Line Travel Insurance reveals that almost a third of Brits2 (15.5 million) have purchased travel miniatures in the last 12 months, buying 103 million products.

Of the 15.5 million people who buy travel size products each year, over two fifths (6.5 million adults) do not recycle the plastic waste, with 25 per cent neglecting to recycle their packaging and 18 per cent of vacationers saying they wanted to but couldn’t as the place they were staying didn’t have recycling facilities. This amounts to 980.8 tonnes of travel miniatures being dumped every year – the equivalent of two-and-a-half Boeing 747s3.

Given the damaging impact plastic waste has on the environment, Direct Line is calling on holidaymakers to think twice this summer; either bulk buying and using recyclable bottles when taking toiletries on holiday or take their travel size waste with them to recycle at home if there are no facilities available at the holiday resort.

When weighing the empty packaging4 of popular toiletries, the research revealed that the average travel container was composed of 22.5g of plastic, compared to 59.3g of plastic in standard-sized packaging. The standard packaging contained 2.6 times more plastic, but nearly five times more liquid, with an average volume of 304.2ml compared to 61.7ml in travel-sized containers.

Further analysis also highlighted the amount of additional plastic waste created by travel miniatures per volume of product. Standard size products contain 5.1ml of fluid per gram of packaging compared to just 2.7ml of fluid per gram in travel packaging, meaning that as well as being more expensive per 100ml, travel items also have a higher proportion of plastic.

Tom Bishop, head of travel at Direct Line, commented: “Taking hand-luggage only is not just a more cost-effective option, but can also be more convenient by removing the need to wait for baggage at the other end. This makes travel-size toiletries essential for many holidaymakers who need to not only comply with regulations but economise on space and weight. However, when you look at the impact these tiny items could have on the environment it’s astounding. Bulk buying toiletries and using recyclable bottles could not only help reduce the damage we are causing to our planet, but also save holidaymakers a few quid to spend whilst they’re away.” 

Natalie Fee, founder of environmental campaign group, City to Sea, said: “Holidays often give travellers a first-hand experience of the effects of plastic pollution, especially now that the Mediterranean is fast becoming one of the most polluted seas in the world. A lot of the countries we travel to don't have the recycling facilities we have in the UK, so we really do need to make sure we're bringing back our empties. Even better, by investing in some refillable, travel-sized bottles and containers you'll not only save money, but you'll be doing your bit to stop plastic pollution at source.”

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Notes to Editors

  • 1Analysis of 80 common toiletry items including shampoos, toothpaste, sun cream and moisturiser. A total of 318 items of different sizes from eight different online and in-store retailers were checked in April 2018. Unit costs are based on either price per 100ml or per item in a packet.
  • 2Research conducted by Opinium amongst 2,007 UK adults between 10 & 13 April 2018, of which 1,240 had been on holiday in the past 12 months and 600 had bought travel miniatures.
  • 3Total waste calculated based on the number of people who buy travel miniatures (15.475 million) multiplied by the average number of miniatures bought (6.68) to get 103.937 million. 42 per cent (the number of people who do not recycle travel miniatures) of 103.379 million is 43.591 million items. The average weight of travel miniatures was calculated as 22.5g, which totals 980.810 million grams of waste – or 980 tonnes. The average weight of a Boeing 747 is 367 tones, which means 980 tones equates to 2.7 Boeing 747s.
  • 4Analysis of the empty weight of the packaging of 13 standard and travel-sized toiletries by Direct Line in May 2018. Comparable brands were used wherever possible for body wash, mouthwash, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and toothpaste packaging.

For further information please contact:

Claire Jarrett 

PR Manager

Direct Line Group

Tel: 01651 832 411

Email: [email protected]


Antonia Green

Citigate Dewe Rogerson

[email protected]

0207 282 2967

Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

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