Clean Water and the Issue of Single Use Plastic

Traveling Issues I Want to Address

Location: Mauritius

Have you turned on your tap today and had a quick drink of pure delicious water? Do you spend your days thinking about clean water and the issue of single use plastic?

I can count on both hands how many countries and regions we have visited where we can safely drink the tap water; New Zealand, Japan, most of Western Europe, most of the USA, Canada, Scandinavia.

Even here in Mauritius, a fairly progressive and well run welfare state country, visitors are advised not to drink unfiltered tap water. Even though the locals drink it, a visitor will likely have issues due to microorganisms that could cause diarrhea if you don’t have a tolerance built up.

Plastic Water bottle

Water borne illnesses can cause a lot of trouble for travelers, including some serious and potentially fatal diseases. Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Cholera, Giardias are some of the serious diseases that are transferred to humans through water. So thinking about clean water and the issue of single use plastic is something that occupies my mind a great deal.

Unfortunately you should avoid tap water in all of Africa, South America, most of Asia and Eastern Europe, according to the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC).

We always research this issue before arrival and then on arrival reiterate the question of tap water with locals we can trust. Even if the question of water purity is a bit on the fence, we always side with safety first. We have both experienced the results of extreme dehydration and diarrhea and that’s not fun for anybody.

Drinking water in plastic jugs

And so what to do? Here in Mauritius like so many other countries, there is but one answer – bottled water.

As a full-time traveler who REALLY wants to make less of an environmental impact and leave as small of a footprint as possible, the issue of water confounds me.

We have yet to purchase and carry a filtration system with us, but I think we will be doing that soon, because we are really conflicted about the single-use plastic. We have two reusable water bottles that we fill frequently with filtered water, but it still calls for us to use plastic bottles way more often than I am comfortable with.

water filter in kitchen
The water filtration unit on the counter left of the sink in Langkawi Malaysia

Here in Mauritius we are purchasing large plastic bottles of water at the grocery store and using it for washing all our fruits and vegetables, making coffee, drinking and brushing our teeth. The good news here on Mauritius is they have a well organized system for plastic bottle recycling. Strategically placed (and loyally used by locals and visitors alike) plastic bottle recycling stations are found around the island. We have seen very little trash here. As a side note they also have a glass bottle deposit system.

We have been really excited to find some countries recently making a huge effort in this area. For instance in Antigua Guatemala the city has instigated a system of clay filtered water stations throughout the city. Free for public use. We also had a clay system filter in our Antigua Airbnb.

clay water filter
Clay filtration system in corner of Antigua Airbnb

Our hotel on Inle Lake (Myanmar Treasure Resort) installed a water refill station for guests while we were staying there. As soon as that was installed we began using it several times a day, even though housekeeping continued to stock our room with single-use plastic water bottles.

Our Airbnb in Cenang Beach Langkawi Malaysia had a wonderful filtration system hooked up to the tap in the kitchen. All water was run through the filtrataion system and we did not need to purchase any bottled water during our month there.

plastic recycling station
Plastic recycling in Mauritius

In Hua Hin Thailand you could purchase a large five gallon jug of water, then refill it over and over again at a station on the sidewalk near the store for about .25 cents (USD).

Yet in other places beaches are littered with plastic (Thailand, Vietnam) and children play in piles of plastic trash (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia), and locals burn plastic along side the road (Kenya).

plastic recycling station
Plastic recycling in Mauritius

I’ve been doing a lot of research on water filtration options for travelers, and I think I am leaning towards the Steripen, although there are many versions available. We will be adding this to our collection of things we don’t leave home with soon…and I regret we haven’t done so yet. Here is a blog with great information about this.

Meanwhile, more than half the world doesn’t have good, clean drinking water, while others never think twice about the availability of safe and abundant water to quench our thirst and go about our daily tasks.

It’s one of a copious number of things our planet is lacking for the health and welfare of the people of the world.

Do you use a travel water filter? I’d love to hear your comments about what you like and why.

Please comment and share our blog. Thank you.

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  • Reply Carla Wesson

    I have used a Steripen for several years. I’ve used it extensively while backpacking but also in foreign places where clean water is not available. I like it because it is lightweight and very compact. Since it is a UV filter, it kills viruses as well as bacteria. It is simple and quick to use. I highly recommend it—I think you’ll love it!!

    January 24, 2020 at 8:29 am
    • Reply Laureen

      Awesome. This is very helpful. Thank you Carla!

      January 24, 2020 at 9:52 pm
  • Reply bree

    I often think about this even at home. On my bench I have a jug that filters out nearly everything. When traveling I only drink water from a bottle however I am in the process of looking for something I can take that I can then just fill it up with “tap” water. I think the company that does my jug do water bottles as well. Im glad you did this post as on past trips I cringe with the amount of plastic bottles that are used on a daily basis. If anyone has suggestions let me know or leave a website so I can check them out.

    January 24, 2020 at 8:41 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      Excellent. Thank you.

      January 24, 2020 at 9:52 pm
  • Reply Jan

    Love your post! At home, we use water that has been filtered by reverse osmosis (done for all by the apartment complex) which we then filter again using a Brita filter. But when we travel, we use bottled water. We also carry a water bottle of our own and fill it up in airplanes and other places. I would be interested to explore on the choice of portable water filters to use while traveling.

    January 24, 2020 at 9:12 pm
  • Reply Ann

    Once when I was in turkey, they had thease places where you could recycle the caps of the waterbottles. And then the goverment took all the caps, recycled, and used the money for wheelchairs and crutches etc.

    January 24, 2020 at 11:12 pm
  • Reply Ellis Veen

    I have used the lifestraw for a couple of years now. Works great as I never got ill and took it with me everywhere (trekking in nepal, central asia, peru). After a couple of years the somewhat bulky bottle started leaking and as I used it so much the lifestraw itself needed replacement soon. If it wasn’t for the bulky bottle I would have bought it again. I then decided to invest in the steri pen ultra light. Quite happy with it, but you need clear water. Great for treating tap water or clear water sources, but less so if there is sand or other particles in the water. Also it needs to be charged so you need an electricity outlet every couple of days. Therefore I also bought the Sawyer mini for trekking when the water can be muddy. Also works great. It is cheap, lightweight and comes with a straw and squeezable pouch that you can fill and attach the filter on and then drink through. No need for electricity either.

    January 25, 2020 at 12:30 am
    • Reply Laureen

      This is awesome information and so very helpful. It’s great to have reviews like this. Thanks!!

      January 25, 2020 at 2:14 am
  • Reply Anita

    I filter water at home but so far I have not a travel filter bottle. Something to consider for the future. Thanks for bringing up this important issue.Happy travels!

    January 30, 2020 at 8:00 am
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