Hotel recycling programs are on the rise, and as the hospitality industry’s environmental impact grows with tourism, a more eco-conscious approach cannot come soon enough. However, waste management in hotels presents numerous challenges that impede truly efficient recycling.

These include mixed waste streams; single-use packaging from complementary items; waste materials from cleaning; food waste from restaurants; and bulk waste in the form of sheets, towels, mattresses, and furniture. In fact, hotels are tasked with dealing with all types of waste, and with around 2lb of material generated on average per guest, per night, there’s a lot of it!

As consumers become more conscious about the environment and the waste they produce, with just a little encouragement, the challenges surrounding waste management may offer positive benefits for all parties. Hotels can reduce the burden on staff by engaging guests with more sustainable practices. Cost reductions related to waste transportation may also be made, and a welcome boost to your brand image is also entirely within the scope of an effective waste management program that encourages guests to recycle.

Recycling and Sustainability as a Unique Selling Point

In the highly competitive world of hospitality, hotels and Bed & Breakfasts are always looking for new ways to stay ahead of the competition. Using sustainability is one way to do this, and as guests and customers become increasingly aware of their individual impact on the environment, a comprehensive recycling program can be a major USP for any establishment.

Promoting sustainability and recycling while engaging your guests in your efforts to reduce waste can be a highly attractive way to bring eco-conscious customers through the door. Take the 1Hotels Group for example, a chain of eco-friendly hotels that uses sustainability as a tool to attract new customers. Rather than simply seeing sustainability and waste management as a necessity, 1Hotels wears its eco-credentials on its sleeve, basing an entire ethos on sustainable practice and messaging it in a highly professional and attractive way.

Engaging Your Guests Through Recycling

While not all establishments will be able to change their operations to match something like 1Hotels, there are a number of ways to engage guests in your waste management practices that don’t necessarily entail ripping up your playbook and starting fresh. Here, we take a look at a few methods that you can implement today to push your hotel to the next level.

  • Introduce a Hotel/Kitchen Garden – Much more than a beautiful place to relax for guests, a garden can include a compost heap for food and organic waste. Ensure you let your guests know that food waste from the kitchen (and their plates) is part of what makes your gardens so beautiful.
  • Provide Guests with Hotel Branded Glasses/Bottles for Water – Encourage guests to use real glasses instead of buying single-use plastic water bottles for hotel rooms. You can offer flavored water/mineral water decanted into a jug each day in the hotel room or upgrade your dining area with a hi-tech water dispenser. Additionally, offering a free refill for water bottles before a long day of sightseeing is a nice touch that guests will appreciate.
  • Provide Refillable Containers for the Bathroom – Refillable containers cut down on plastic waste. Using dispensers not only allows you to focus on the design and aesthetic of the entire room, but also ensures you can buy soaps, shampoos, moisturizers, etc. in bulk to save on shipping costs and reduce plastic waste. Provide information related to your products on informational cards, and wherever possible, try to buy local.
  • Ask Guests to Sort Waste into the Correct Bins – Bins for glass, paper/card, and plastic in rooms don’t have to be an eye-sore, and they can be designed to match your décor. Very often, only a small amount of waste is created each day within hotel rooms, and when it is correctly sorted by guests, it can easily be recycled by staff. Include appropriate labelling and graphics on bins within guest rooms to make it clear how waste should be separated. The same concept can be extended throughout your hotel.
  • Encourage Guests to Hold onto their Towels –The less often towels are washed the longer they will last, plus both energy and money can be saved through washing less. Encourage guests to only request new towels when they are truly needed—on the floor means they need a wash, on the towel rack means they are good for another use. This can reduce towel washing by more than 50%, and by framing your request as an eco-consideration, guests are likely to be more than happy to comply.

There are, in fact, many ways to engage your hotel guests in recycling and sustainability initiatives, and through this, help to boost your green credentials and possibly your establishment’s appeal to potential customers. However, it is important to recognize and avoid greenwashing. This is the practice of making misleading claims that paint your business as more environmentally friendly than it really is. It is also something instantly recognizable to increasingly eco-conscious consumers.

Whatever your plans for increasing your hotel’s recycling and sustainability profile, ensure that your practices are supported by progressive policies, staff training and education, constant reassessment, and that, wherever possible, they take a holistic approach to your hotel’s use of resources and its waste management.

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