Home Publisher's Point of View Baffled by Industry Response to Single-Use Plastic Amenity Bottle Bill

Baffled by Industry Response to Single-Use Plastic Amenity Bottle Bill

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Glenn Hasek

The big news out of California this past week is Assembly Bill No. 1162, legislation that would eliminate single-use plastic bottles used to provide amenities to California lodging guests by January 1, 2023. It was introduced by California Assembly Member Ash Kalra and coauthored by Assembly Member Mark Stone. The next hearing date for the bill is April 23. While I applaud this groundbreaking legislation—a bold step to reduce the mountains of plastic amenity bottle waste that ends up in landfills, oceans and elsewhere—I am baffled by our industry’s response to it.

First, let’s assume your property is in California and you know this bill is going to become law. How much time would you need to transition away from single-use plastic bottles to dispensers? I would like to know. It couldn’t be too long, could it? The authors of the bill believe you would need about three years. The California Hotel & Lodging Association (CHLA)? They believe you will need up to five or six years! You read that right. We in the lodging industry are extremely slow to catch on to sustainability, aren’t we?

In a letter to Mark Stone, CHLA said it would support the bill if amended to account for certain initial and ongoing operational challenges. Here is what CHLA said:

“Lastly, we request an implementation date of January 1, 2025 for all lodging establishments with 50 rooms or more and January 1, 2026 for all lodging establishments, to provide hotels with enough time to exhaust their current stock of shampoo, conditioner and liquid soap so as not to encourage unnecessary waste. Additionally, the component of the hotel and lodging industry that manufactures, produces and sells these amenities will need to adjust their business models specifically within California, which is expected to be lengthy and significant. The reality is, a mandate like this on a state with more than 500,000 hotel and lodging rooms may cause backlogs and shortages.”

Have you stopped laughing yet? Or, crying? Let’s address the “exhaust their current stock” issue first. Hotels do not have years of stock on their shelves waiting to be used. While CHLA argues that the industry will need from five to six years to eliminate inventory, Ian Wallace, President of Dispenser Amenities, explained that, “It’s not an inventory issue. It is a contract issue. The guys who make the bottles have a lot invested in it. They typically sign a two or three-year agreement and they fill it as it goes. It’s not a case of inventory sitting in a hotel. I have never heard of an agreement longer than three years. Most contracts are two years.”

Most Hotels Use Stock Amenity Program

Ray Burger, President of Pineapple Hospitality, says 80 percent of hotels use a stock amenity program that does not even require a contract. “If they use a custom program, the contracts are written for a year or two.” He adds that if a hotel owner is faced with a requirement such as Assembly Bill No. 1162, the owner should be able to get out of an agreement with the supplier.

CHLA also infers that dispenser makers may not be able to keep up with the new demand for dispensers. Says Wallace of Dispenser Amenities, “No, I would say that comment is not factual. Certainly, Dispenser Amenities can ramp up to meet increasing demand.  I would presume others could too.”

What is clear here is that the authors of the bill need a reality check from folks outside of CHLA. They do not know enough about our industry. Also clear is that CHLA believes the makers of single-use plastic bottles are not agile enough to “quickly” transition to a dispenser-based business model.   

In Assembly Bill No. 1162, there will be a warning, then a $500 fine, then subsequent fines not to exceed $2,000 annually if a property does not comply with the law. For a large property that would be peanuts; for a smaller property that is quite a pinch. I am not a big fan of government interference in a case like this but if there are going to be fines the money should go to organizations dedicated to cleaning up plastic waste. The money should not go to the government. Plastic waste is a huge problem and our industry has contributed a lot to it.

I contacted California Assembly Member Ash Kalra for my article but am still waiting to hear back. If I do have a chance to chat with him, I will share our conversation with you.

Your thoughts? I can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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