The High Costs of Train Travel vs. the Rising Concerns of Plastic Pollution

Alfred Tang

Hatched by Alfred Tang

Sep 25, 2023

4 min read


The High Costs of Train Travel vs. the Rising Concerns of Plastic Pollution

Travelling by train has always been seen as a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly option compared to flying. However, many people often wonder why train tickets are significantly more expensive than airline tickets. On the other hand, plastic pollution has become an escalating issue as waste management and recycling efforts continue to fall short. Let's delve into these two topics and explore the common points that connect them.

Aviation accounts for approximately 3 percent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, making it a significant contributor to climate change. This fact alone raises concerns about the environmental impact of flying. In contrast, trains are considered a more eco-friendly mode of transportation since they produce fewer emissions per passenger. So, why do train tickets tend to come with a higher price tag?

One reason for the higher cost of train travel is the existence of what experts term "polluting subsidies" in the airline industry. These subsidies, which come in the form of tax breaks and fuel subsidies, can significantly reduce the operational costs for airlines. Consequently, these savings are often passed on to consumers in the form of cheaper tickets. On the other hand, train companies do not benefit from such subsidies, leading to higher fares for passengers.

The issue of plastic pollution is another pressing concern that affects our environment. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recently highlighted the alarming growth of plastic pollution, citing inadequate waste management and recycling systems as the primary culprits. Shockingly, only 9 percent of plastic waste is currently being recycled, leaving the majority to end up in landfills or pollute our oceans and other aquatic environments.

According to the OECD, an estimated 6.1 million tonnes of plastic waste leaked into aquatic environments, while 1.7 million tonnes flowed into our oceans. These staggering figures underscore the urgent need for improved waste management and recycling practices. Without significant changes, the problem of plastic pollution will only continue to worsen, posing grave threats to marine life and ecosystems.

Interestingly, there are some commonalities between the challenges faced by both the train travel and plastic pollution industries. Both issues require a reevaluation of existing systems and the implementation of more sustainable practices. Additionally, they both call for greater government support and intervention to address the root causes of these problems.

To tackle the issue of expensive train travel, governments could consider implementing subsidies or tax breaks for train companies, similar to those available to airlines. This would help level the playing field and make train travel a more affordable and accessible option for passengers. Furthermore, investing in the expansion and improvement of train infrastructure would also contribute to making train travel a more viable alternative.

In the case of plastic pollution, governments must prioritize waste management and recycling initiatives. This could involve implementing stricter regulations on plastic production and usage, encouraging businesses to adopt more sustainable packaging alternatives, and investing in recycling facilities and technologies. Additionally, public awareness campaigns can play a crucial role in educating individuals about the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling plastic waste.

In conclusion, the high costs of train travel and the growing problem of plastic pollution share common threads that connect them. Both issues demand immediate attention and action from governments, businesses, and individuals alike. By addressing the root causes and implementing sustainable solutions, we can create a more affordable and eco-friendly future for train travel while combating the relentless growth of plastic pollution. Let us advocate for change, support sustainable initiatives, and make conscious choices to protect our environment.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Opt for train travel whenever possible: By choosing trains over planes, you can contribute to reducing carbon emissions and supporting a more sustainable mode of transportation.
  • 2. Reduce your plastic consumption: Make a conscious effort to minimize your use of single-use plastics and opt for reusable alternatives. Simple changes like carrying a reusable water bottle and using cloth bags can make a significant difference.
  • 3. Support recycling initiatives: Educate yourself about proper recycling practices and ensure that you are separating your recyclables correctly. Additionally, support businesses and organizations that are actively working towards improving waste management and recycling processes.

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