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Four Tips to Streamline Hotel Waste Management & Boost Your Recycling

Shannon Bergstrom

Whether you’re the owner of a cozy bed and breakfast or the manager of a luxury hotel, there’s no escaping the issue of waste management. From everyday consumables such as food and toiletries to bulky furniture and construction waste from renovations, the nature of the business ensures that hotels and other types of temporary lodgings generate plenty of trash. In fact, it is estimated that hotels produce around a 2.2lb of waste per guest, per night—a figure that may seem small at first glance but that becomes truly staggering when you consider that there are more than 1.1 billion guest nights annually in the United States. 

Streamlining hotel waste management and improving recycling rates is essential, and today, a properly managed plan can bring multiple benefits to your business. Stricter regulations and new laws, of course, must be adhered to, however, as hotel guests become increasingly aware of their own impact on the planet. A solid set of eco credentials can help drive business and improve customer satisfaction. What’s more, you also can give a little back to the local community and develop sustainable habits that generate less waste—eventually helping you cut down costs.

Here then, we take a look at four ways you can improve waste management in the hotel industry whatever the size of your business.

Compost or Donate Food Waste 

Food waste is a problem across a variety of industries, and it affects hotels in particular. However, improving hotel food waste management is generally a positive first step that can be achieved when proper practices are in place. First, ensuring that dedicated organics bins are supplied in kitchens and other serving areas will allow you to easily manage food waste at the source. Organics can then be collected or, for hotels and B&Bs that have the facilities, sent to your own compost pile.

After this, correctly sorting food that is still edible (whether perishable or prepared) for donation is a win-win situation for everyone involved. Once collected, programs such as the EPA’s Feed Hungry People allow you donate food to those in need. 

Minimize Single-Use Plastics 

Single-use plastics are a huge issue, and the true extent of their destructive impact is only now being uncovered. Sadly, single-use plastics are particularly prevalent within the hotel industry—with single-serve food, water, and toiletries the biggest offenders. However, there are number of approaches that can help minimize single-use plastics and reduce waste. Plastic water bottles are easily replaced with decanters or reusable glass bottles, providing a little extra class to each room. Single-use toiletries may pose a slightly bigger issue, but there are niche recycling companies that are available to support these hard-to-recycle items. There are also companies with a range of sustainable packaging options alongside reusable dispensers for all types of toiletries. 

Donate Old Furniture, Uniforms and Linen 

For larger items, and items such as clothing that generally don’t fit easily into current recycling schemes, donation is an excellent way to keep things out of the landfill. Some companies collect both uniforms and linen items that are then distributed to nonprofit organizations. Furniture and other decorative items may be sold or donated through long-standing organizations such as Goodwill or through waste management companies who will collect and then distribute items on your behalf. In most cases, donations are tax deductible and have the potential to provide your business with positive press.

Educate Staff & Guests About Recycling Practices 

Today, everyone is aware of our increasingly destructive impact on the planet, and most of us are receptive to new ideas when it comes to reducing waste. Education then, is a crucial piece of the puzzle, helping both staff and guests to play a part in reducing the waste generated by your business. Providing “recyclable” and “non-recyclable” bins for guests and correct signage for staff, allows your visitors to easily separate items without too much inconvenience while helping your staff to sort waste into the correct bins after collection. Additionally, ensuring the latest lists of what is/isn’t recyclable in your area will help everyone stay on the same page, allowing your business to increase its recycling rate with only a little extra effort.

About the Author

Shannon Bergstrom is a LEED-accredited, TRUE waste advisor. She currently works at RTS, a tech-driven waste and recycling management company, as a sustainability operations manager. Shannon consults with clients across the hotel industry on sustainable waste practices.