Since the 1950s, when the large-scale production of synthetic materials began, 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been generated—and we’ve thrown the majority away. Of that waste, people have only recycled 9 percent.
Unfortunately, plastics do not biodegrade, meaning these products stick around for hundreds or thousands of years. They clog up landfills and make their way into our environment—including 18 billion pounds that flow into the ocean every year.
The hospitality industry plays a significant role in plastic consumption, as one 200-room hotel can generate around 300,000 single-use pieces in a month at full capacity. Some items these businesses use include water bottles, amenity packages, plastic wrap, storage bags, latex gloves, and plastic bags.
Plastic production shows no signs of slowing down. Still, hotels have stepped up to the challenge of eliminating plastic from their operations and initiating change.
How Are Hotels Going Plastic-Free?
Hotels across the globe have pledged to eliminate certain plastic products from their properties. Here are just a few examples and the initiatives they have undertaken.
Back in 2019, Marriott announced that it would replace its small toiletry bottles—which are too small to be cleaned and recycled—with larger ones by 2020. The move will prevent 770 tons of plastic from going to landfills each year and reduce the brand’s plastic use for amenities by 30 percent.
Marriott also plans to remove plastic straws and stirrers from all properties, estimating that they will save 1 billion of the former and 250 million of the latter from going to waste.
Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas
This hotel brand operates 11 resorts and 31 spas in more than 20 countries. They bottle their water on-site to eliminate the use of plastic bottles, and they’ve also swapped out plastic straws for alternatives like paper, bamboo and lemongrass.
Along with its zero-waste policy—all materials are either recycled, reused or upcycled—Six Senses launched an Earth Lab initiative, allowing guests to take workshops and watch DIY videos to learn more about eco-friendly practices. For example, bulk bags, which hold sand, fertilizer or other materials, can get shredded and remade into new products like clothing and playground equipment.
Taj Resorts, Hotels & Palaces
The Taj Group of hotels plans to phase out single-use plastics entirely and have already done so at their Taj Exotica Resort & Spa on Havelock Island in India. At this 72-villa location, the brand has its own water bottling plant and waste disposal system.
At other locations, the group has swapped out plastic for in-room amenities, garbage bags and wet umbrella bags consisting of oxo-biodegradable material. They’ve switched trays, utensils and straws with wood, corn starch, bamboo and paper alternatives. The company has also adopted jute and cotton laundry bags and reusable ceramic bathroom dispensers in lieu of plastic.
AKARYN Hotel Group
The AKARYN Hotel group, an award-winning chain based in Thailand, plans to become the first plastic-free hotel company in Asia. The brand began their efforts by sourcing glass bottles and containers for use in their restaurants and bars. Now, they offer stainless steel water bottles to all guests, with drinking dispensers on each floor.
All rooms feature celadon pottery containers for bathroom toiletries and biodegradable bags for trash cans. Guests can request reusable bags for shopping at nearby retail locations. Additionally, the group launched a community outreach program, educating local students on how to reduce plastic use in their own lives.
EDITION Hotels, which operates properties in New York, Miami, London, Barcelona and Abu Dhabi, made the goal to become 100 percent plastic-free by March of 2019. Ben Pundole, VP of Brand Experience for EDITION, says the company used 1.2 million plastic bottles at four of its locations in 2017, and 1,369 straws per day at a single property.
Now, their on-site bars and restaurants have stopped using straws. They have cleared out plastic bottles from minifridges and requested that food vendors use plastic-free materials with deliveries. Instead of bottled water, they offer guests beverages in cans. While they still use plastic key cards, Pundole claims they’re working on switching to keyless entry.
The Future of Plastic-Free Hospitality
Today’s consumers are more eco-conscious than ever, putting their dollars toward their values. To keep up with shifting demand and positively impact the environment, hospitality brands like those above are making the shift to plastic-free operations.
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