Cleaning Up Their Act: How Hotels are Tackling Single-Use Plastic

hotel room green inititatives


It’s no secret that plastic is everywhere. Whether it’s brushing our teeth each morning or enjoying a daily coffee-to-go in a plastic lined paper cup. The problem seems to be interwoven with our way of life. While changing our individual habits can be tricky enough, what does it take to change a whole industry? Well, diminishing market share for one. 

Going green has its benefits. Restaurants, hotels, and airlines all contribute their fair share to the plastic problem but customers are starting to demand change and voting with their dollars. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues.

In order to stay relevant, hotels are changing the way they do business. With every initiative taken, venues are challenging industry standards one product at a time. Here are a few simple ways hotels, restaurants and other hospitality ventures are reducing their impact on the environment:


water bottles replacing single use plastice

Water bottles

Although they contain the source of all life, they’re doing their fair share to hurt the environment. Across the world, people purchase approximately 1 million plastic bottles per minute. Once you consider that only around 10% are recycled, it’s clear we have a pretty big issue.

Reusable water bottles in the form or steel, aluminum or glass are an easy alternative. Many hotels are now initiating green policies and removing all plastic water bottles from reception areas and conference rooms.

Innovative programs like Refill, Not Landfill aims to drastically reduce the amount of single-use plastic bottles by offering a reusable bottle and providing drinking stations installed around properties and cities to quench their thirst. This one small change of policy diverts 1000’s of bottles from ending up in the landfill.

bamboo straw


Currently, it is estimated that 8.5 billion plastic straws are polluting beaches around the planet. Doing an audit on their environmental practices, EDITION hotel found that they used 500,000 plastic straws per year in just one of their hotels! In a perfect world we would all enjoy our refreshing beverages with no straws at all, but the demand still exists and those wanting to keep their customers happy have found some eco-friendly alternatives. One of the most promising is bamboo straws.

Bamboo straws are 100% natural, biodegradable, durable and most importantly reusable! While paper straws beat plastic, they can quickly lose their shape, break-down and (like plastic) are only designed to be single-use. Bamboo straws, however, can last for years, are machine washable and ultimately offer the same drinking experience for guests. Many businesses are capitalizing on the longevity of these straws by engraving their company logo onto the product and offering it to guests as a souvenir to be enjoyed long after their stay.


takeaway containers for hospitality industry


Restaurants, particularly fast-food rely can rely heavily on disposable plastics and packaging. Whether it’s the plastic leftovers container provided at restaurants or the cutlery we use for meals on the go, it’s not hard to see the amount of single-use items going to waste. The best practice in this instance is reduction. Some businesses are asking their customers if they would like a carry bag, instead of just providing one, others are offering discounts for customers who bring in their own containers or coffee cups. Not everything is avoidable, but it all helps.

Eco-friendly alternatives are the other major way to reduce environmental costs.  Switching plastic packaging with paper or biodegradable materials is an easy method. Cutlery too can be substituted with many bamboo/wooden products. One company in India turned their spoons into biscuits to be enjoyed with their meal. If left uneaten the biscuit spoons will decompose in a matter of days.


alterantives to single use plastic toiletries


Everybody loves free things and part of any hotel experience is exploring the treasure trove of little gifts that come with your room. Toiletries such as shower caps, body wash, shampoo and conditioner all come within their own packaging and are all designed to be single use. While these items are complimentary for us, the environment usually picks up the bill.

As it would be impractical to rely on guests to always bring their own products, some hotel chains such as the Marriott have begun installing soap and shampoo dispensers within their bathrooms across all their locations. By refilling the dispensers, guests still get to enjoy all the perks of hotel accommodation, and the hotel is able to cut down on the 23,000 small bottles they use per year. The feedback they have received is positive, as many guests prefer having more product available to them than what was in the tiny take-away bottles.

customised hand-made bamboo ballpoint pen

In Room Materials

Hotels are finding innovative ways to replace items that have traditionally been made of plastic. Bins can be made from organic materials like rattan or water hyacinth with washable liners. Slipper and laundry bags can be replaced with linen and cotton. Even bamboo ballpoint pens can be used to replace plastic ballpoint pens. There is no shortage of sustainable solutions to traditionally plastic products.


At the end of the day, hospitality is an industry built on the individual needs of consumers, while there are many areas where single-use goods can be reduced, it’s ultimately up to us as consumers to make choices that reflect our desires. Choosing eco-friendly establishments that enact sustainable business practices provides a clear message to the industry and helps us to take one step closer to a zero waste society.   

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published