Thomas Cook has pledged to slash the use of plastic across its airlines and resorts, vowing to remove 70 million single-use plastics within the next 12 months.

Cook’s #noplaceforplastic campaign pledges to eliminate single-use plastic “wherever possible” and educate employees and customers to make more “sustainable choices” but the operator admits it won’t be able to rid its resorts from single-use plastic altogether.

To reduce plastic use, the operator aims to introduce refillable water bottles and replace plastic cups and plates with natural alternatives in 2019. It is also planning on turning discarded and broken plastic inflatables left by holidaymakers into bags and accessories, with the help of designers Wyatt and Jack.

Cook hopes the campaign will cut the equivalent of 3,500 suitcases of single-use plastic items from its resorts and aircraft before December next year.

Group corporate affairs director Alice Macandrew said: “Eight million pieces of plastic pollution enter the oceans each day. This has devastating consequences, harming wildlife and washing up on the beaches we want to enjoy on holiday.

“Significantly for the travel industry, the amount of plastic litter going into the Mediterranean increases by 40 per cent during the summer months, demonstrating a direct link between our industry and plastic pollution.”

Speaking to Travel Weekly, she added: “This is not a PR stunt, this is making real time changes for lasting effects. We are being pragmatic and not claiming that we will be able to completely wipe out all plastic use across our company, but we will remove plastics where we can, recycle and adapt in other areas.

“Some things on our airlines, such as with food preservation, rely on plastics and will not be feasible to remove, but we will adapt in every way that we can. We will also work closely with our customer base to ensure that recycling is promoted and accessible. There is no overnight solution, so we need to be creative with how we tackle this problem.”

As part of the pledge, the company will pilot a scheme in Rhodes to cut down single-use plastics and with the local community and government to improve recycling facilities on the island.

“We do not pretend to be experts in the field of recycling,” Macandrew said. “But as the leading travel company we have the ability and the responsibility to impact change. If we do not step up and tackle this issue, how can we expect others to do anything?”

The campaign was backed by Dr Geoff Brighty, technical director at the UKs first plastic pollution NGO, Plastic Oceans Foundation. He said: “The travel industry has a major role to play to reduce ocean plastic waste.

“We are delighted a travel company the size of Thomas Cook has taken the travel industry lead to reduce their plastic footprint through their plastic pledge.

“By taking this lead to change its business practice, we hope that it sets the sector on a course to clean up resorts, support local waste management and stop plastic pollution in the most beautiful, and environmentally-sensitive, parts of our world.”

Thomas Cook is not the first company in the travel sector to pledge to reduce plastic waste. Last month, airline Delta vowed to rid its flights of single-use plastics, hotel group Iberostar launched uniforms for its staff made out of recycled plastic and MSC Cruises set out a seven-step plan to “phase out” single-use plastic on board its ships.

In April, Hurtigruten set out its plans to be the first ’plastic-free’ cruise line.

Cook surveyed 3,000 of its customers, which found that 90% consider plastic use an issue while 72% said their awareness of their own plastic use has grown in the past 12 months.