MINNETONKA, MINN.—Carlson’s Country Inns & Suites brand, a major player in the limited-service, midscale segment of the lodging industry, is getting serious about reducing the volume of waste produced at its approximately 500 properties worldwide. By October 31 this year, disposable tableware will be eliminated in breakfast areas. About 20 hotels have already taken this step. Steve Mogck, executive vice president and COO, Country Inns & Suites by Carlson, says approximately 200 hotels will make the transition by June 1. Disposable plates, bowls, cups and utensils will be replaced with washable counterparts.
Mogck says a large volume of the waste produced in a typical day at a Country Inns & Suites property is in the breakfast area—about 256 pounds of trash per day per property. While some food and napkin paper waste will still be produced after October 31, most of the waste will be eliminated. This means a huge dent will be made in the 121,000 pounds of trash produced system-wide each day and 44 million pounds of trash generated system-wide each year.
To make the transition to non-disposables, property owners have had to install or will install dishwashers in breakfast areas. Even with this investment, plus the purchase of non-disposables, Mogck says the return on investment will be a little more than a year. After that point there will be a positive return.
“When we ran the numbers, the cumulative annual costs for non-disposables was $35,000,” Mogck says. “The cost for using disposable product was $76,000.”
New Concept Tested First
Country Inns & Suites by Carlson tested the concept in properties Carlson owns and manages, as well as in franchised properties. The use of disposables is primarily an issue in the United States. The brand’s Canadian hotels went to non-disposables a decade ago.
“We did very detailed testing,” Mogck says. “We wanted to make sure it would work in a practical way. We are trying to come up with initiatives that are the right thing to do environmentally for the hotels and environmentally for the world and try to make sure that we balance those aspects.”
In properties where disposables have been eliminated, the number of trips to the dumpster has been reduced and guests even help out by placing their used diningware in convenient collection stations.
Mogck says guests have responded favorably to the elimination of disposables. While he cannot prove the recent increase in breakfast scores at the participating properties is entirely due to the waste-saving step, there is evidence pointing in that direction—comment cards comments, for example.
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Glenn Hasek can be reached at email@example.com.