Waste management in hotels is increasingly gaining significance the world over. Nithya Mehrotra, Director of Housekeeping, Rose Rayhaan by Rotana, says, “It is increasingly getting difficult and expensive to dispose of waste. As per studies, on an average, a hotel guest generates about 1 kg of waste per night – more than half of it in paper, plastic and cardboard. In addition to a negative environmental impact, such as landfill capacity diminishing, the cost of waste disposal also becomes more expensive.“ Landfilling not only takes up valuable land but also causes air, water and soil pollution, discharging carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane into the atmosphere and chemicals and pesticides into the earth and groundwater. In addition, waste often has to travel long distances to the landfill site, consuming fuel and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.
“Most hotels around the world are conserving natural resources by reducing, reusing and recycling the many different products used in housekeeping. We have also begun eliminating toxic cleaning chemicals from housekeeping operations and find that non-toxic alternatives often get the job done in a cheaper, safer and as effective manner. Most importantly, we’ve discovered that guests respond positively to these eco-friendly initiatives,” adds Amal Alhaq, Executive Housekeeper, Mövenpick Resorts & Spa Dead Sea, Jordan.
The top sources of waste in hotel housekeeping include used soap, old linen, towels, blankets, pillows, chemicals and grey water. Shamal Raj, Executive Housekeeper, Pullman Dubai Creek City Centre, says, “As Pullman Dubai Creek City Centre is attached to the City Centre Deira mall, the largest amount of waste comes from packaging materials like shopping bags, cartons, styrofoam, wrappers, etc. Close behind are plastic bottles, glass bottles, aluminum cans etc. All of these are left behind by the guests. Additionally, the bottles of amenities that we place in the rooms are also an integral part of the waste generation.
Methods to manage waste
At the Mövenpick Resorts & Spa Dead Sea, Jordan, different practices are carried out to manage waste. For instance, bed linen is changed every second day and, of course, by placing an ‘environment protection’ tent card in all guest rooms to clarify that this exercise is to reduce laundry consumption of water and detergents in order to minimise the hotel’s carbon footprint. Guests are requested to return their towels/robes on the rack to be used again. Also, to give back to the community, the basic necessity of sanitation and healthcare, the hotel recently implemented a waste management programme, Mövenpick’s SHINE initiatives and a sustainable campaign called ‘Soap for Hope’ in cooperation with Diversey and Tkiyet Um Ali.
This programme has already been launched in all Mövenpick properties in Jordan, with which the housekeeping department collects discarded soaps to undergo a recycling process. The soaps will be cut into smaller chunks, soap cubes will be sanitised to soften, and soap mixtures will be pressed into bricks and dried. New soap bars will then be delivered and donated to the poorest households in the local community. Doing all of this has resulted in another positive audit conducted in the property in August 2017, giving the property its 7th annual Green Globe Hotel re-certification.
At Rose Rayhaan by Rotana, each waste item is tackled at the source. For instance, the hotel uses mineral water packaged in polythene bags instead of carton boxes. The minibar glass jars are collected and handed over to the supplier for recycling. Recycle bins are placed in every service corridor. All chemicals used are ecofriendly certified and procured from reputed suppliers. In the washroom and other areas, auto-cut towel dispensers are used instead of pull-down towels. Old linen, uniforms and towels are discarded, and the items are given to local charities. Newspaper preferences are checked with the guest upon check-in and only distributed on request.
As part of its Planet 21 programme at AccorHotels Group, multiple projects have been put in place to control and monitor waste management. As part of this programme, waste is segregated at source and segregation bins are placed on each floor; attendants are trained and monitored on how to separate plastic, aluminum, paper, cartons and glass from the floors itself. Then this is measured and monthly reports are generated to give a graphical representation of where the hotel is heading in terms of waste management. All the segregated waste is then sent for recycling and general waste to the landfill.
Additionally, even though it is not completely housekeeping related, food waste is another major contribution to the general waste that is collected. Pullman Dubai Creek City Centre implemented the winnow system, which helped the kitchen team measure and optimise food waste generated from every outlet. This assisted in menu engineering and planning, and helped save 15,000 plates of food in 2017, which translates to around 64 tonnes of carbon emissions saved.
Staff training in waste management
The staff at all three hotels undergo rigorous training workshops in waste management, including the housekeeping team and management. This includes workshops to embrace the measures already implemented at the hotel and all other general aspects of environmental protection and waste collection, segregation, storage, safety and checking of threats while handling waste, etc. At Rose Rayhaan by Rotana, teams are educated through communication boards as well.
At Pullman, 98 percent of the hotel staff are trained in waste management practices and constantly encouraged to actively participate in waste segregation through regular awareness programmes. “Having all these practices in place, we have diverted 95 tonnes of waste from going in to landfills, thereby earning a considerable amount of money as rebate,” says Raj. “As a motivational tool, hotels, if possible, can allocate the rebate amount for colleague welfare,” he suggests.
The challenges involved
“On a global level, reduction at source is, in my opinion, the best way to reduce waste. This needs a conscious effort from organisations and governments to educate and implement procedures to ensure there is nothing left to waste. Plastic packaging is another serious threat and challenge. For instance, bathroom amenities are mostly packed in single-use plastic containers for hygiene purposes. But, the side effect of that is waste generation. There are several solutions like refillable dispensers, glass containers, etc. There should be a balance in this tug of war between hygiene, guest satisfaction and certain regulations. An effective solution to this soon could make a huge difference to waste generation,” states Raj.
Alhaq says that the main challenge is to raise awareness among the guests and the community. It is important to include customers and guests in the environmental protection measures by leaving sustainability questionnaires, through which they can share their ideas and suggestions.
The onus of waste management also lies with cleaning and hygiene solution providers. Housekeepers feel that they should offer cost-effective cleaning and waste management solutions. The idea is to reduce waste, not to increase the cost. Raj says, they should have alternatives to plastic packaging, considering hygiene factors and government regulations. “In my home country, I have seen suppliers taking back their packaging material to recycle and reuse themselves. This could be one effective solution for many items. ”
Manufacturers should also optimise machines and dispensers as far as possible without affecting customer satisfaction. For instance, the hand tissue dispenser can be optimised to have a medium size tissue dispensed every time the sensor operates, and there should also be an automatic delay for the next tissue. Such changes will positively affect human behaviour, which is to normally take more than one tissue every time they are in a washroom, which is not necessary. Manufacturers and suppliers should tap into a waste management mentality themselves.
Waste management is a serious issue; and while the entire industry is aware of the impact of waste generation, there is still a long way to go. Awareness needs to be increased and hotels are on the fastrack to educate and involve guests and suppliers in this process. However, the faster it is done, the better it will be for future generations.