Going green through reduction or elimination of thousands of pounds of unnecessary everyday waste created throughout the lodging industry has become a hot topic over the last couple of years. One of the largest waste producers for a hotel are the millions of amenity bottles and bar soaps that are used once and thrown away every day. Imagine the sheer amount of waste with three bottles and two soaps from every room being thrown away.
A 180 room hotel will throw away about 9,700 pounds every year—less than 40 percent used. It has been estimated that in the United States half a million plastic bottles—still with 60 percent liquid in them, end up in our landfills every day. They will eventually dissolve, but only in 500 to 1,000 years.
Are dispensers the answer and are they eco-friendly, sanitary and accepted by hotel guests?
In Europe, dispenser use in hotels is nothing new. Fifteen years ago the first hotels in Europe started using dispensers to see if they would reduce plastic and other waste. The result was astonishing with a reduction in waste of more than 90 percent and cost savings of 50 percent. No wonder today 70 to 80 percent of all hotels in Europe use some form of dispenser system for their guest amenities.
The first dispensers used were the old unattractive and bulky refillable units you find in a gym shower or public restroom not meant to be aesthetically pleasing or easy to use. Using an open refillable system also created severe sanitary problems.
Replaceable Cartridges with Integrated Valves
Today there are aesthetically pleasing hotel dispensers that use hermetically closed replaceable cartridges with integrated valves that meet the highest demands of hygiene. They last a month, further reducing cost of housekeeping. They are called cartridge dispensers.
It took a century to reach the present level of dispenser technology and sophistication even though hastened by the recycling, reduce and reuse movements sweeping the old crowded European continent.
What about the United States? Here we are now recycling, reducing and reusing at a frantic speed. The U.S. hotel industry is still doubtful about dispensers, however, due to a bias against the old and unattractive refillable units.
There are many dispensers on the market but there is little to distinguish different types as no specific reputable supplier has yet taken the lead to accurately push knowledge of modern cartridge dispensing units and their advantages. Furthermore, promoting a change from conventional amenities to dispensers does not behoove existing amenity suppliers as their revenue would suffer when hotels save. It would be even worse for those with an investment in plastic bottling facilities.
Disadvantages of Refillable Dispensers
How do you know which soap dispenser is the right one for you? Refillable dispensers have a tendency to leak from the pump/valve systems, typically leaking out in a tub or floor. If someone were to slip the hotel would most likely be held liable. Having to refill units from a large drum of fluid into smaller containers of fluid takes time and ultimately increases labor costs. Spillage as well as constant deep cleans on every dispensing unit also costs money. With refillable dispensers there is little focus on the product itself. Most large bulk liquid products are made of cheap synthetic liquid. Cheap to buy, but little to satisfy the guests.
A recent study affirmed that refillable dispensers are prone to accumulate bacteria and other contaminants. Dr. Charles Gerba, a professor of environmental microbiology in the departments of Microbiology and Immunology and Soil, Water and Environmental Science at the University of Arizona in Tucson, recently conducted a study showing that bacteria has a tendency to grow in open, bulk refillable soap dispensers at a much higher rate than previously thought. All refillable dispensers pose the same potential risk, even a bottle placed on the counter.
Dr. Gerba studied 541 soap samples from around the United States, finding that one in four had unsafe levels of bacteria (more than 500 parts per million). When bacteria like coliform contaminates soap, it thrives in it and when new soap is added to the old supply it only exacerbates the problem. The best approach to mitigate the problem is to empty and thoroughly wash each dispenser and pump and only then refill it. A tedious job for housekeeping. According to Dr. Gerba the best possible solution to avoid contamination is to use sealed containers or cartridge dispensers with integrated pumps/valves that are recycled after being used.
All evidence leads to the same conclusion the European hotel industry came to: Refillable dispensers are, in addition to being clumsy and unattractive, based on old and even dangerous technology and are very labor intensive.
Pump/Valve Within the Cartridge
Cartridge dispensers contain all working parts within the refill cartridge, so each refill is really also a complete replacement of the working mechanisms; pump/valve within the cartridge.
Today modern, attractive, eco-friendly and contamination free cartridge dispensers designed for hotels and well tested over a decade in the hotel industry are available to the U.S. hotel industry.
A 50 percent decrease of amenity cost and 90 percent of waste is the only thing they have in common with the dinosaurs; the refillable dispensers.
Chris Grektorp is a native Floridian and a graduate of Florida State University with both U.S. and Swedish citizenship. His Scandinavian background, keen interest and frequent international travelling has given him the ability to study and compare environmental practices and alternative energy sources on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. He is the marketing manager for Amenitique Inc., a supplier of cartridge based dispensers. Amenitique has operated from the Tampa Bay area since 1993 designing, manufacturing and supplying custom bathroom amenities for high end hotels and resorts all over the country from Hawaii to Puerto Rico. The Amenitique Group originated in Europe in the 1980s and today has sister companies, affiliates and distributors all over Europe and Asia. Packaging used by Amenitique is developed from entirely biodegradable materials.