Since plastic started being mass-produced in the 1950s, around 6,300 million tonnes of it has been thrown away. And with just 9% of global plastic waste recycled, these items are rapidly building up in landfill sites and oceans.
It might be difficult to imagine running a property without plastic. After all, plastic items like water bottles, mini toiletries and straws have been part of the standard set-up for decades. Guests have become dependent on these convenient and ‘safe’ items, too – with the shiny plastic wrapping signalling freshness, newness and cleanliness in an unfamiliar environment.
The good news is that properties of all shapes and sizes are already making the switch to sustainable alternatives – and it’s working. From bamboo straws to stainless steel water bottles, new solutions are changing the hospitality industry’s old habits, proving it is possible for guests and partners to adapt. In this section, we’ll discuss the environmental, social and financial benefits of reducing your property’s plastic consumption. We’ll also share practical advice on how to start making changes, with help from the experts at Travel Without Plastic.
- Plastic takes up to 1,000 years to break down – We may use, dispose of and forget about our single-use plastic items, but most of them will long outlive all of us. From straws and stirrers with a lifespan of 200 years, to plastic bottles at 450 years, all the way up to plastic bags at a huge 1,000 years. This harms wildlife, damages earth’s ecosystems and puts microplastics into the food chain.
- Production is still growing – and so are our carbon emissions – 300 million tonnes of new plastic is produced each year. And if we continue with our current habits, that number is expected to quadruple by 2050. The carbon emissions generated actively contribute to climate change, as well as using up non-renewable resources like oil and coal. We’re rapidly using up our global carbon budget.
- It can save your business money – A trial by Travel Without Plastic found that an average-sized hotel of 150 rooms saved an average of €5,000 over a 6-month period in which they cut out all single-use plastic. Savings vary based on the size of your property, the plastics you use now, and the solutions you choose, but these statistics show that making a change can benefit your business in the long run.
- Plastic pollution = lost revenue – The State of California estimates that plastic debris washing up along the shoreline costs the region around $68 million a year in lost tourism revenue. For an even more extreme example, in 2018, Boracay Island in the Philippines was completely closed to visitors for a 6-month clean-up. Since reopening, it’s banned single-use plastic completely.
Take an inventory
In order to cut your plastic usage, you first need to understand what your current consumption is. Take an inventory of the single-use plastic items you stock at your property, noting down amounts and costs. By doing so, you’ll be able to see at a glance where the big opportunities are. Greener Guest – an initiative from Travel Without Plastic – offers a downloadable toolkit with a ready-made spreadsheet designed to help you with all calculations. They’ll walk you through the process step-by-step so you can decide where to start more easily.
Consider the essentials
With a full inventory gathered, you might be surprised at the volume of plastic items you use across your property. Look critically at this list and consider if everything there is really required. Can you forego some of these items altogether, or can you look at alternatives that are multi-purpose?
Research the swaps you can make
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for cutting out plastic. The swaps you make might vary depending on the type of property you run, the facilities you have and the guests you attract. Researching the many sustainable alternatives on the market can help you decide what works for your property. To return money back to the local economy and keep your carbon footprint low, you can also look into which products are available to source in your surrounding area.
Here are our suggestions for a few simple plastic swaps:
Involve your team
Whether you’re a team of two or 200, it’s important that everybody feels motivated about the changes you’re planning. One way to achieve this is to hold a workshop. In this session, you can discuss why cutting plastic is important and ask team members to share their own ideas.
If your team are enthusiastic and engaged, they’ll be committed to making sure your new solutions are a success. They’ll also feel more empowered to talk about the topic with your guests – passing that enthusiasm on to them, too.
Tell guests about your initiatives
Research shows sustainable travel is becoming a priority for travellers, with 58% more determined to make sustainable choices than they were a year ago. This means your guests are more likely to be happy with your commitment than they are to feel inconvenienced. But in order for that to happen, they need to know about your efforts. To begin with, make sure you update your sustainability settings in the extranet. This will help eco-conscious guests find and book your property.
Next, make sure you’re educating and encouraging guests during their stay. Think about placing signs, cards or information booklets around the property. Ideally, these should:
- Tell guests what you’re doing E.g. “We’re reducing the amount of plastic we use at our property.”
- Share the impact E.g. “Going plastic-free has saved x% of water bottles from going to landfill so far.”
- Provide some social proof E.g. “x% of guests take their reusable bottles home. If you’d like to keep yours, just let us know.”
The information you give your guests can influence them long beyond check-out. If they adopt your initiatives during their stay, that’s already a great result. If they go home and change their habits, you can be proud that your property is creating long-lasting impact as well.
Once you start to implement measures to reduce your plastic consumption – or if you’ve already got some in place – you can communicate this to travellers through our platform.
Have you implemented any of these practices to reduce plastic?
Discover our other sustainability guides:
Reducing water consumption
Fresh water is becoming increasingly scarce. That’s why we need to start cutting water consumption today – and it’s going to take more than just asking guests to reuse towels. But the environmental and financial upsides are worth the investment.
Certification shows the world your commitment to sustainability. But while the badges lend credit to your efforts and help attract more eco-conscious guests, the process itself is even more valuable – helping you set priorities and fill gaps in your sustainability plans.
Setting the environmental baseline
In the journey towards sustainability, your baseline is like your compass. It’s only once you’ve measured your performance – for example in carbon emissions or water consumption – that you can start to set goals and plan how to reach them.