Last year was essentially like Navy SEAL training for many hotel operators. Guest traffic, expectations and demands have required adaptation on a scale never seen before. Thankfully, the hospitality industry is made up of strong players who have risen to the occasion. Hotel operators are now handling sanitation and disinfecting all while winning back the trust of concerned guests to refine their businesses. As a result, the waste streams have most certainly changed.
The utilization of single-use items, pre-packaged amenities and increased cleaning have driven waste volumes up. Pair this with unpredictable occupancy, challenging events, and the unique needs of today’s guests, it makes managing the waste stream a challenge.
However, this could be the best time to re-evaluate the current waste program to save money and streamline processes. While guest traffic is less than normal, it can be a good time to revamp programs with little downside from an operations perspective. This way, when the hotel is bustling with guests again, time is not taken away from assisting them, any program kinks would have been resolved already. Knowing how to properly dispose of single use plastics, managing food waste, and having an open dialogue with your waste services provider can have a significant impact on cost savings and resources of the environment.
Hotel Stay Experience Has Changed
As a guest, a hotel stay will look a bit different currently than it would have, pre-pandemic. Pre-pandemic many hotel operators were taking several strides towards sustainability. Hotels were reducing single-use plastics and moving towards reusable dispensers that could be refilled in between guest stays and decreasing the amount of food placed at the buffet at a time to divert food scraps from entering the trash bins.
Although now, some of these same operators have had to take a second look, and identify what items could be safely reused, while operating under new sanitary protocols. As a result, there has been a resurgence of single-use plastics in hotels. Those refillable dispensers have now been replaced with the individual shampoo and conditioner bottles, and instead of refillable hand soap dispensers, you will find pre-packaged bars. While it may seem hard to manage a waste stream that is continuously changing, this may be a good time to conduct a waste audit.
Conducting a waste audit provides the operation an opportunity to identify wasteful trends and measure the effectiveness of the current waste program. Let us take a hotel in the current operating environment. If it is noticed during the audit, that a significant amount of full shampoo and conditioner bottles are ending up in the trash bins, maybe take a deeper look as to why. Perhaps, two bottles per guestroom is too much, and reducing that to one per room, will not only reduce the amount of plastic in the trash bins, but also the amount of hotel product being wasted. The waste audit revealing this costly trend not only can lead to cost savings for the hotel but help preserve resources of the environment as well. As guest occupancy increases, the operating environment and waste streams will change as well. Therefore, conducting a waste audit every two months, for the next six months or so may help the team identify new normals and adapt accordingly.
Reevaluate Organic Waste Process
It is no secret that one of the most loved amenities of hotels are the breakfast buffets. Buffets are unsurprisingly on pause, and operations have moved to pre-packed breakfast items and boxed meals instead. Unfortunately, this means food and food packaging waste is likely increasing. This might be a good time to reevaluate the current organic waste process. If currently, organic recycling services are not being utilized, looking into it could be quite beneficial for the hotel. Instead of throwing food scraps into the trash bins, it is thrown into the organic recycling bin. This diverts food waste from entering the landfill, but also can have a cost reduction effect. The less food waste entering the trash bins, the less trash accumulating. Therefore, hopefully in turn, the number of pickups needed will reduce.
It is important to remember that implementing a new program takes time but can really pay off in the long run. While there are a lot of steps to doing this right, including finding the lowest local price, identifying what metrics to use for service frequency, and educating staff, the return on investment is there.
Managing this internally for a handful of hotels is not a problem. However, if your operation supports dozens or even hundreds of facilities this can quickly become a management nightmare. Thankfully, there are other solutions out there such as utilizing a waste consultant. Waste consultants are experts in the waste management industry, helping operators waste less, and save money while doing so. Waste consultants partner with multi-location operators by providing professional services such as bill auditing, procurement of service vendors and service optimization to ensure you’re only paying for the services that you need. Additionally, they can capture data, drive business intelligence, and prepare reports to assist in strategic data decision making. Technology has come a long way within the waste industry. Devices such as bin sensors detect bin fill levels and provide the operator and waste consultant with accurate metrics regarding the waste stream, aiding in the decision-making process for waste programs. The best part is that the savings generated by utilizing a waste consultant typically more than pays for their services making it a win-win.
Perhaps now really is the best time to review your program, adjust and set goals for success in the coming year. Whether you have one or one hundred hotels, every incremental change to Waste Nothing is a step in the right direction.
Matthew S. Hollis is the President of Elytus, a third-party administrator that helps clients manage their waste services from procurement to payment. To learn more about Elytus’ mission to Waste Nothing, check them out at www.elytus.com or on social media.