Across the world, the hotel industry is responsible for generating up to 150 million tons of single-use plastic each year. Annually 8 million tons of the world’s plastic finds its way into our oceans with only 5% actually being recycled.
Single-use plastics have become a huge issue that has increasingly been addressed by governments around the world. As of 2021, local governments in BC can ban single-use plastics without further ministerial approval, and the Government of Canada is working to ban harmful plastics including straws, cutlery, foodservice ware, and stir sticks.
Often referred to as disposable plastic, single-use plastic is commonly used for plastic packaging and includes items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away or recycled.
‘Eco-plastics’ such as biodegradable or compostable plastics, are not accepted in most composting collection systems. Generally, eco-plastics contaminate compost and reduce its value, often only breaking down when exposed to prolonged high temperatures of about 50°C, which are conditions met in incineration plants. Bioplastics derived from renewable sources (corn starch, cassava roots, or sugarcane) or from bacterial fermentation (sugars and lipids) also do not naturally degrade in the environment and especially not in the ocean. Please do not purchase biodegradable! Most biodegradables simply hinder waste diversion efforts.
How to Get Started
The best way to address this issue is to bring together individuals from each department of your hotel.
Create a Working Group: Consider which departments use single-use plastics and include them in your workgroup. It is important to have at least one member from housekeeping and the food and beverage/culinary team included in your group as these areas will be impacted the most.
Review Each Area of Your Operation: Check for single-use plastic items in your operations and consider how you could remove or replace them.
Work With Your Suppliers: They may be able to help you eliminate/reduce the amount of plastic packaging and provide multi-use items or products made from alternative responsible materials. Removing unnecessary plastic packaging from products doesn’t just have a positive impact on the environment, it can also significantly reduce costs.
Food and Beverage/Hotel Operations
Following are tips for reducing single-use plastic:
- Eliminate the use of plastic straws/stirrers and only have a suitable alternative/limited amount available for customers upon request.
- Switch from single-use plastic water bottles to refillable glass bottles and/or water fountains for meeting rooms where possible.
- For local deliveries, check with your suppliers if plastic packaging can be removed/reduced or switched to multi-use containers such as re-usable crates which still ensure food delivered has the expected shelf life.
- Check with your waste management company on how plastic and other recyclables are processed after they have been picked up.
- Ask suppliers to commit to reduce plastic in deliveries (e.g., change mushroom boxes, banana wrapping, fruit punnets to recycled materials).
- Change takeaway cutlery to wood (FSC certified or equivalent) and remove all plastic cutlery items.
- Provide reusable drink cannisters for all back-of-house employees to remove the need for plastic cups.
The Importance of GreenStep’s Certification Program
The hotel industry’s use of single-use plastics is a pressing concern that negatively affects the environment. Fortunately, hotels can take action and implement changes. One effective approach is to acquire GreenStep’s Single-Use Plastic Free Certification, which equips hotels with the necessary tools and resources to identify and replace single-use plastics with sustainable alternatives.
By implementing all of these steps, hotels can made a significant impact on the environment and save money at the same time.