Single-use plastics have adverse environmental effects that are greatly outweighed by any advantages they may have. Every day tons of worthless plastic items are added to the ecosystem just to make a cold beverage more convenient to sip or spare a little cleaning up, causing significant harm in the process. In addition, it may take decades for the plastic to decompose completely. Organizations around the world have been seeking ways to resolve the problem through cleanup efforts, but we could stop it at the source if we simply minimize plastic waste before it ends up in the hands of a consumer.
The global hotel industry contributes significantly to the annual death toll of 100,000 marine mammals and 1 million seabirds by using 150 million tons of single-use plastic each year. It is an issue that affects both people and other animals as it moves up the food chain. You can work with your hotel to help minimize this issue by signing the UNESCO Sustainable Travel Pledge.
The following are ten easy ways to minimize plastic waste in your hotel.
1. Replace or Stop Using Straws
Each single-use plastic straw discarded in the US alone is predicted to take up to 200 years to decompose fully. During that time, they degrade into dangerous microplastics, microscopic bits of material that are harmful to humans and wildlife.
Thankfully, there are lots of options. Straws can be constructed from various biodegradable polymers, paper, or plant materials like papaya leaves or wheat stems. Reusable straws made of silicone, stainless steel, or bamboo can cut expenses by reducing the need to buy new stock constantly, but their manufacture has an environmental cost; thus, it’s preferable to do away with straws entirely.
Many hotels have already started using eco-friendly substitutes as they move toward sustainability. For example, plastic straws were successfully eliminated from several Hilton locations, and others quickly followed, including Hyatt Hotels, Anantara, and Four Seasons.
2. Stop Outsourcing your Water Bottle Supply and Switch to Glass or Metal Bottles
While it is pretty simple to recycle plastic water bottles, it can take between 70 and 450 years for them to decompose when placed in the usual trash entirely. In a hotel with 100 rooms and two water bottles in each room, the establishment may be disposing of at least 73,000 pieces of plastic annually.
Purchasing water in glass bottles rather than plastic bottles is the most straightforward approach to reducing this waste. Naturally, this raises the price per unit. However, installing a reverse osmosis water filtering system and offering reusable glass bottles will help you save money over time. The hotel chain 1Hotels went a step further by purifying the tap water, enabling visitors to fill their glasses at the sink in their bathroom.
3. Use Biodegradable Bathroom Amenities or Choose More Affordable Eco-Friendly Options
Small bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and a toothbrush set are a bonus for visitors. However, millions of single-use bottles and toothbrushes have a significant environmental impact, especially since they can take 100 years to decompose. Therefore, one of the sustainability pillars of the UNESCO Sustainable Travel Pledge is reducing single-use plastics.
You don’t have to eliminate these conveniences to reduce plastic waste. Several biodegradable products are available, such as bamboo toothbrushes, ear swabs, and combs. In addition, installing refillable dispensers for shampoo in each room will help you save money over time because you may purchase bathroom supplies in bulk rather than in individual branded bottles. Just be sure to support regional vendors and encourage more community involvement by shopping locally.
4. Replace Single-Use Fresh Towels
One of the small touches that enhance a hotel stay is the cool towel provided at check-in, but those towels, especially the wrapper they come in, are not eco-friendly because they take decades to degrade.
Fortunately, the answer is straightforward. Simple, reusable, washable towels should be provided. For the price of a sufficient number of little towels, a few drops of natural oil to add to the water you soak them in, and a refrigerator near the front desk to keep them ready to please your customers, you can add a touch of luxury to the guest experience.
5. Use Biodegradable Trash Bags, But Check the Label
Even if plastic waste is kept to a bare minimum, garbage will still exist. Trash bags are used to collect and transport waste; they are often constructed of plastic because it is both lightweight and durable. However, they also take up to 100 years to ultimately deteriorate.
Fortunately, there are environmentally responsible options. Society can even use waste bags in an effort to minimize plastic waste. Trash bags can be created from the same biodegradable plastics used to make drinking straws. They are equally as strong as conventional bags, but they will disintegrate more quickly. It’s essential to remember that certain kinds of biodegradable plastics either need to go through a commercial composting factory for processing or only break down in specific environments. To get the most environmentally friendly choice, it is worthwhile to verify the specifics. In addition, you can handle composting yourself by setting up your own composting procedure.
6. Purchase Ingredients at Local Markets to Cut Down on Plastic Packaging
You can buy high-quality ingredients in significant quantities by doing business with commercial suppliers and retailers. However, since everything is wrapped in plastic, a lot of waste is produced.
In contrast, using ingredients from nearby vendors generally reduces packing while being more affordable, helping regional producers, and boosting the local economy. Moreover, such producers might develop to supply the quantity and consistency you require. In addition, since “locally sourced ingredients” always appears appetizing on a menu, you get a double benefit.
7. Replace Condiment Packets with Small Reusable Bowls
Although serving breakfast condiments in individual servings makes the buffet lines move more quickly, the extra plastic waste they produce could take 30 years to decompose.
Reusable substitutes, like ceramic or metal pots, require more work to prepare and some capital investment to get enough for each table in your restaurant. Still, they increase value over time because you can purchase the fillings in bulk. They also offer a more elegant consumer experience than their plastic equivalents. If your hotel has a more upscale style, you may buy these pots from regional vendors and local artisans.
8. Use Compostable or Recyclable Takeout Containers
Polystyrene has long been a preferred and affordable material for cups and containers in casual dining and takeout. But, sadly, this substance lingers in the environment for a very long time—up to 50 years. Even worse, there aren’t many facilities suited to process it, making it one of the most complex materials to recycle.
Using biodegradable substitutes will improve your marketing while being more environmentally responsible. Consider striking containers made from shaped and flattened plant leaves or other inventive materials. More affordable solutions are available as more large food shops switch to biodegradable packaging. Additionally, this is a great chance to support local businesses and increase involvement in the neighborhood.
9. Switch to Mobile Keyless Entry or Metal Keys
Although plastic key cards are reusable and incredibly practical for your guests, they will eventually end up in the trash. The Hilton calculated that they saved 40 tons of plastic when they switched to mobile keyless entry. In addition, you can get an app operating in your hotel without spending money on its design, thanks to services like OpenKey.
Installing contemporary locks for use with the mobile app might be expensive, especially for large hotels. So instead, you can choose traditional metal keys to conserve money and the environment. Standard keys don’t have the high-tech feel of the keyless alternative, but they do reduce the amount of plastic waste and have a nostalgic vibe that many tourists will appreciate.
10. Recycle Plastic Waste and Teach Staff to Help
While some hotel chains have pushed for completely plastic-free operations, smaller chains, and individual hotels may find the associated capital costs unaffordable. But it doesn’t mean you can’t still make a difference in the drive to minimize plastic waste and make the hospitality sector as environmentally friendly as possible.
Plastics and other waste items will be appropriately identified, sorted, and collected as part of a successful recycling program and transported to the proper processing facilities. Your staff may need to be trained to sort different types of plastic into the appropriate bins. Still, it is a relatively low cost when compared to saving the environment and enhancing your property’s green credentials. Remember that paying your employees a living wage and providing benefits is the best thing you can do if you want them to treat the project seriously. Finally, employ locals who care about their own communities.
Plastic Alternatives Will Take Hold
The hospitality industry contributes significantly to plastic packaging waste. Fortunately, some establishments are taking steps to reduce their environmental impact by switching to alternative materials and implementing measures such as reusable containers for take-out orders. To minimize plastic waste when eating out, even patrons can bring their own utensils and a reusable water bottle and opt for paper packaging whenever possible. Additionally, your businesses may be able to source locally produced food and cut down on food waste. Offering discounts on local plant-based meals helps reduce the amount of transportation required and encourages sustainability. By making simple changes to your operations and supporting fellow businesses committed to reducing plastic pollution, you can make a big difference in helping protect the environment.