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How can I remove single-use plastic from my hotel rooms?

There has been a big global move for hotels to review what they are doing operationally to see how they can reduce their impact on the environment.

One of the key areas that has gained a lot of focus is reducing, or ideally, removing single-use plastic from the guest rooms. When a hotel starts on this journey it can be daunting because it seems like everywhere you look there is a need for plastic. Due to this, we get a lot of questions from our housekeeping clients asking, “How and where do we start?!”

So, here are some pivotal points to concentrate on.

Make a list

The first thing to do is make a list of everything in your room that relates to disposable plastic. This could range from the tissue boxes that have the little plastic sleeves in the top of the box to the plastic packaging on the food in the minibar. Then look through the list and see what can’t be recycled or reused and make those items a priority to focus on. Doing this will help you to gain knowledge about what you’re currently doing vs what your goal is.

Here are the main areas we see single-use plastic being used:

  • Bathroom Toiletries

Bathroom toiletries, which are typically small plastic tubes or bottles, have no further use after it’s been opened by the guest. So, this is an area to focus on first because it has a big impact. You will be surprised how it mounts up over a day, week, month, or year… let alone a decade.

Although there are options to recycle your used or partly used toiletry bottles through systems like The Hotel WEKA, you still can’t control where all the plastic goes. Some guests will take the single-use toiletries for a keepsake which will likely end up in the landfill after they’ve used them. To avoid this, you should consider purchasing bathroom dispensers that are in lockable, theft-proof and tamper-proof brackets so the bottles can’t be taken. There are options to refill these dispenser bottles, or in a lot of cases, you can simply replace a 500ml bottle when it’s empty. Both the refillable dispensers and non-refillable dispensers dramatically reduce your plastic waste over the small individual toiletries, and because it’s locked in you can be rest assured you know where your plastic goes after use… and it won’t be the junk pile.

  • Rubbish Bin Liners

Using plastic bin liners is another obvious place to start because they are single-use and can’t be recycled unless someone is going to empty the bag out and then recycle the plastic – which let’s be honest, wouldn’t be a pleasant job to do and would be very time-consuming.

To help support sustainability efforts we’re seeing a lot of hotels removing plastic bin liners from their rubbish and recycling bins. Instead, the majority are opting to have removable liners which can be easily washed if they become dirty from the guests’ rubbish.

  • Plastic Water Bottles

There are some countries around the globe that offer bottled water in every hotel due to the quality of the tap water not being good enough to drink. However, in New Zealand, we do not have that issue – thankfully. So instead of having plastic water bottles for your guests, there are other options we see being promoted such as:

    • Use glass water bottles instead of plastic.
    • Offer a carafe filled with tap water – along with 2 glasses.
    • Have a branded reusable drink bottle in the room.
    • Or just remove the bottled water completely and let your guests know that your tap water is very safe to drink from.
  • Mini Bar Drinks

If you offer mini bar drinks, the chances are you have the 350ml or 600ml coke bottles on offer, which is an easy replacement. You can swap these out for the glass bottle options that Coca-Cola has, or just go with aluminium cans. These can both be recycled very easily after their use.

  • Tissue Boxes

This is a less obvious one, but as I am sure you have noticed, every tissue box (well not quite every tissue box, thanks to Six for Good) has a little plastic sleeve on the top which is there to try and reduce lint. However, when you come to recycle the cardboard box once it has been finished the plastic is still attached to the cardboard, which in a lot of areas means that the cardboard can’t be recycled without removing it. Six for Good’s tissue box range has specifically had this plastic piece removed to make it easier for your housekeeping team to recycle the cardboard.

  • Dry Accessories

If you are passionate about ensuring your guests have everything they need while staying in your rooms, you most likely have the little boxes of shower caps, sanitary bags, and other items. These are all important items, but unfortunately, the shower cap and a sanitary bag are plastic. So, why not choose a range that has corn starch-based plastic? So that at least when it hits the landfill the plastic will biodegrade.

There are many more areas that can be looked at within the guest room, but this is a start for you. Although making changes like this may seem frightening or overwhelming, especially when you are time-poor, and there are many things to change, just make a start.

It’s like the old analogy, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!”(But we don’t recommend you eat elephants).

If you still need help kick-starting things – just reach out – we are here for you. Or you can also check out our Knowledge Base Articles that have a lot of useful tips and insights.

About the author

Reuben Beatson

Focused on making it easy for New Zealand’s Hotel & Motel industry to create those memorable guest experiences that are key to their success, I am truly passionate about the NZ hotel industry and have been working with hoteliers for over 21 years. Living the reason we exist - To create moments of delight for people every day.