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Understanding the Pressures Leading to the Phasing Out of Single-Use Amenity Bottles

Hans P. Vriens

NATIONAL REPORT—Green Lodging News recently interviewed Hans P. Vriens, Managing Director and President North America, ADA Cosmetics, to understand the pressures leading to the phasing out of single-use amenity bottles.

I understand that California and New York are eliminating single-use mini toiletries from hotels. Help me understand the legislation in each state. Any new shampoo, conditioner, etc. purchased must now be offered as part of an on-the-wall dispenser system? Or can a hotel use large-format bottles not on the wall elsewhere in the bathroom? Does the legislation offer a time window to transition? Or, has that time window now passed? Are you familiar with the penalties for non-compliance?

We at ADA Cosmetics are proud to announce our commitment to the decisions made by State Legislatures of California, New York, and Washington regarding the ban of travel-sized mini toiletries: These states have taken a groundbreaking step by banning these. The legislation affects hotels of various sizes in the states and aims to reduce plastic waste and promote more environmentally conscious travel. We hope that these decisions will serve as a catalyst for even more environmentally friendly measures throughout the guest experience in large and small hotels.

California led the way in this development by becoming the first state to sign a law in 2018 prohibiting hotels from offering mini toiletries in plastic bottles. Large hotels had until January 2023 to remove these small shampoos, conditioners, and soaps from circulation, while hotels with fewer than 50 rooms had until January 2024. Hotels that violate this regulation are subject to fines.

Since early 2024, New York has implemented strict rules regarding the use of single-use toiletries in hotels. These rules require a switch to refillable dispensers and environmentally friendly containers for all body and hair care products. Smaller hotels with fewer than 50 rooms have an additional year to prepare for this transition, with the same rules taking effect in 2025. Financial penalties are imposed for violations.

The Washington State Legislature passed a bill in 2023 that will require hotels with 50 units or more to phase out single-use plastics, which are often used for personal care products by January 1, 2027. Lodging establishments with fewer than 50 units must meet the requirement by January 1, 2028. Some hotels plan on switching to bulk dispensers for toiletries.

Are you aware of any other U.S. states that are pursuing similar legislation?

We are almost certain that other states will follow the lead of these states, as for example, the state of Hawaii has attempted to ban mini toiletries several times without success. We are of course monitoring this development closely.

Help me understand where countries in Europe or elsewhere stand regarding single-use amenities. Has there been similar legislation in other countries, cities, etc.?

Actually, the European Union is committed to achieving climate neutrality by 2050 and has put forward proposals to reduce plastic waste as part of the 2022 Green Deal. Just recently, at the end of April, the EU Parliament passed a regulation that aims to reduce packaging waste by 15 percent by 2040—compared to the base value from 2018. This means that travel portions for soap and shampoo will no longer exist in the EU in the future. From 2030, all packaging should be recyclable as a matter of principle. The new regulation is to gradually come into effect from 2025.

However, at ADA Cosmetics, we strive to stay ahead of legislation. Our company is the first and only company in the hotel cosmetics sector whose entire product portfolio is Cradle to Cradle Certified Silver. This led to the recognition of The Green Key International that our product portfolio also complies with their regulations. Through our innovative hotel dispenser system SmartCare, which helps to avoid plastic waste, we have always been committed to more responsible business practices. Sustainability is an integral part of our DNA.

Why is such legislation good for the environment?

It is obvious that reducing plastic packaging based on finite and non-renewable resources such as crude oil has a positive impact on the environment. Besides, small portions are often opened but not fully used. After the guest’s departure, they are discarded even though there is still shower gel, shampoo, or body lotion inside.

Our dispenser solutions can be refilled and, in the case of pump dispensers like the SmartCare System, completely emptied. This benefits the environment as well as the hotelier, for whom it is an economic question. To put it in figures: our dispenser solutions deliver a 78 percent reduction in plastic compared to small portions, which is a reduction of 4 kg per hotel room per year. At the same time switching from small portions to dispensers delivers a 50 percent reduction in liquid wastage, which is approximately 8.5 liters per room per year. Imagine the saving potential if all of the 21+ million hotel rooms worldwide were converted to dispenser systems. And to top it all: SmartCare also ensures easy maintenance for housekeeping and security against theft.

To sum it up: There is no second planet available to us. Tourism professionals worldwide need to break new ground in order to continue to provide extraordinary travel experiences in the future. We think our products have significant impact on the hotel industry’s sustainability efforts and so we continue to invest in cutting-edge systems that prioritize recyclability, energy efficiency and low emissions.

In what ways is the transition away from single-use an opportunity to improve the guest experience?

Travelers worldwide are becoming increasingly conscious and greatly welcome sustainable offerings. The desire for change is indeed communicated by the guests to the hotels. However, this does not mean sacrificing quality for the guest experience. There are additional benefits besides environmental friendliness: let’s talk about hygiene and cleanliness. Our SmartCare dispensers for example have a patented membrane technology with safe-lock seal that guarantees scientifically proven, perfect hygiene: that means no dripping, no back contamination, no wear out effect. Thanks to an advanced mono-material execution it has been conceived to be 100 percent recyclable by additionally providing guests with the highest quality premium skincare and body care from renowned brands of our portfolio.

There are different types of alternatives to single-use bottles available. Help me understand all the options and the differences between them. I know dispensers can vary in design and operability.

In general, there are two types of dispensers: pump dispensers and press dispensers.

Pump dispensers are the more well-known systems. However, the conventional ones have been suspected of having a hygiene problem for years. A study by a German university has now confirmed this and also identified the problem. In short, the construction of the pump head is flawed and can lead to a bacterial biofilm entering the interior of the dispensers, which can cause discomfort, nausea, and vomiting upon contact with the user. You can find a summary here on the ADA Cosmetics website.

However, no need to worry: ADA Cosmetics offers an innovation for conventional pump dispensers: A new mono-material hygiene pump that is proven against back-contamination and that sets new sustainability standards due to its mono-material composition.

Press dispensers do not have this problem as no contamination can enter them. They hang with the product output downwards on the wall. SmartCare e.g. offers the highest level of hygienic safety with its protective, patented membrane technology. This makes it the most hygienic dispenser system in the world.

Explain the types of alternatives to single-use bottles that your company sells and why it believes they are the best solutions for the hospitality marketplace.

At ADA Cosmetics, the health of our customers’ guests is our top priority. We only use hygienically flawless systems. Our bestselling system is SmartCare, the most hygienic and, if I may say so, extraordinarily aesthetic dispenser system in the world.

Of course, we also offer other dispenser systems. For those who prefer to use a pump dispenser system, they will find what they need with us. In addition to the SHAPE system, which meets the highest design standards and is absolutely hygienic due to the dome technology, we have developed the aforementioned new pump with a patented drainage system for conventional pump dispensers.

On one hand, our patented drainage technology ensures that no pathogenic biofilm can form. On the other hand, the pump is developed from mono-material and solves a decades-old problem: Pump heads of traditional pump dispensers are made from various materials that cannot be separated in the recycling process. This results in the loss of important resources. The new pump that we developed can be completely recycled.

How different should an owner of a Motel 6 think about dispensers when compared to a Four Seasons? I realize there are cost differences but what is the magic formula for best matching a dispenser to the clientele who will be using it?

The objective of everyone within the hospitality industry, including every hotel manager, should be to deliver the finest experience to their guests. This principle holds true whether it’s a Motel 6 or a Four Seasons.

Of course, there are variations when it comes to brands and preferred scents. However, there should be no discrepancies when it comes to sustainability and hygiene. Because here, the health of all guests, regardless of the hotel, and the health of the planet are at stake.

At ADA Cosmetics, we ensure that we have the most suitable and sustainable products available for every hotel.

We are grateful for our exceptional global team of customer service consultants, experts in your market, who offer professional guidance and innovative solutions, ensuring a seamless partnership from the start.

With this drive toward the elimination of single-use amenities, what are you hearing from your customers? Are they also driving this change? Has your dispenser business reflected this change?

Every day, our customers and their guests inspire us to offer sustainable and hygienic solutions. This is evident in our production, where we’ve witnessed a significant decrease in small portions alongside a growing dispenser business. Our SmartCare press dispenser system exemplifies this positivity, being crafted entirely from monomaterial for full recyclability, making it an exceptionally sustainable solution. Furthermore, with its patented membrane technology, it stands as the most hygienic dispenser system globally.

I know there are organizations that certify the liquids that are part of dispensing systems but are there certifications of the dispensers/bottles themselves that hoteliers should be aware of?

A look at the certifications reveals that each country has different certifications and certification processes. When it comes to dispenser systems, the process is usually simpler in terms of the materials used.

Unfortunately, the ingredients of the products are not always transparent. Harmful ingredients can lead to problems on the skin of guests and in the environment. Microplastics, mineral oils, silicones, parabens, and many more can cause allergic reactions and issues. Certifications such as Cradle to Cradle Certified provide important guidance in this regard. So far, ADA Cosmetics is the only company in the industry worldwide whose entire portfolio has received such certification.

Hoteliers and their guests can therefore access our diverse range of products without any concerns. In general, hoteliers should pay attention to the materials from which dispenser systems are made. Dispenser systems made from mono-materials are highly recyclable and can be easily reused. This is the case with the dispenser systems from ADA Cosmetics.