How Much Waste is Generated by Hotels?
It’s estimated that hotels generate one cubic yard of waste per room each month. First-class hotel rooms generate 3.2 pounds of waste per room, while first-class meals generate 2 pounds of waste. With fewer amenities, economy hotel rooms generate 1.7 pounds of waste per room and 1.2 pounds of waste per meal.
Where Is It Coming From?
When we talk waste, we’re not just talking about trash or food that is discarded by guests. We’re also talking about what’s used by the cleaning staff, the kitchen, and the items in the rooms themselves that eventually become obsolete.
Did you know that up to 60% of the waste produced by hotels can be recycled? Additionally, there are programs in place that attempt to minimize the amount of waste produced in the first place. Let’s break down where hotel waste comes from.
- Food Waste
- Copy Paper
- Aluminum and Steel Cans
- Plastic Containers
- Fluorescent lamps
- Printer Cartridges
The city of San Francisco, California partnered with Recology in an effort to become a zero-waste city. They aim to accomplish this goal with action items such as:
- Making it convenient to recycle
- Informing the public about the zero-waste goal
- Providing incentives for recycling/reducing waste products
If the public knows how to reduce their consumption, and how to recycle what they are consuming, the city has a better chance of someday reaching its goal. When the Hilton participated in the Recology program, it saved $200,000 in its first year. Their efforts produced the following results:
- 750 tons of materials (paper, cans, plastic, compost) recycled
- 19.8 tons of cooking grease turned into fuel
- 171 tons of electronic waste (including fluorescent light bulbs) recycled
- 23 tons of supplies donated (such as partially used hygiene products)
How Hotels Can Reduce Waste
These numbers are impressive, but how do hotels get started with these plans to reduce waste? It certainly doesn’t happen overnight, and it involves educating hotel staff as well as hotel guests. It may also mean investing in equipment that makes curbside recycling pickup convenient for a hotel or motel.
Know Your Waste
You need to understand what waste is being produced daily at your property to understand how to cut back. Some of the top offenders are cardboard, food waste, and single-use plastics.
Reducing Cardboard Waste
The bulk of the waste generated by hotels is cardboard boxes. They can account for up to 50% of waste. Investing in a baler is a smart move for hotels; it can streamline the process of breaking down and baling cardboard to prep it for pickup from a recycling company. Hotels most likely can’t eliminate deliveries of goods in cardboard boxes, so the next best thing is properly recycling packing materials.
Reducing Food Waste
Food can make up to 50% of what hotels are discarding each year. Hotels can combat the issue of food waste in a number of ways:
- Sending leftover food to hog farms
- Sourcing food locally
- Planning menu offerings based on a garden being grown at the hotel
- Repurposing vegetal oil waste as fuel
Hotels can also reduce portion sizes so less food ends up in the trash after a meal.
Reducing Plastic Waste
Single-use plastics in hotels usually fall into two categories: PETE and HDPE. Since these cannot be combined for recycling, hotels and motels can provide guests with bins for depositing their plastics, but will then need to sort them.
To help cut back on the purchase of plastic water bottles, hotels can include bottle-filling stations to encourage guests to use refillable water bottles during their stay. These could be located by vending machines, near ice machines, in the fitness center, and lobby of the hotel.
If you’ve traveled in the last few years, you probably noticed that some of your favorite hotel brands no longer offer travel-sized toiletries in their bathrooms. Instead, they’ve switched to refillable shampoo, conditioner, and soap dispensers. While it may be disappointing to no longer be able to take a souvenir shampoo bottle home as a reminder of your trip, this switch is in an effort to still provide a convenience to guests without generating excess plastic waste.
Hotels can invest in balers for plastic collected, or send the whole lot out to be sorted and processed for recycling.
Reducing Paper Waste
While newspaper delivery at every guest room is no longer a common occurrence, many luxury hotels still offer a paper to anyone who asks. Marriott hotels no longer offer complimentary papers to all weekend guests, and they estimate it has reduced its carbon emissions by 10,350 tons per year as a result.
In an office setting, it’s estimated that 45% of all paper printed each day just ends up in the trash. A hotel may not use 10,000 sheets of copy paper per year like an office, but going paperless can keep a lot of trash out of landfills.
Reducing Miscellaneous Waste
Incandescent light bulbs can last as few as 750 hours before burning out. In contrast, an LED bulb can offer light for 40,000 hours. Hotels can reduce waste by making the switch from bulbs with a short lifespan to ones with more staying power. Not only do LEDs last longer, but they consume less energy when in use.
What’s It in For Hotels?
While it’s great to be environmentally friendly as a business, it’s a huge expense to get started. Many businesses do have to keep the bottom line in mind, even when it comes to recycling. The good news is that when your property beings implementing recycling programs and efforts to produce less waste in the first place, it’s a public-relations opportunity.
Hotels can contact local publications and news outlets to share their progress and appeal to the community. Results from a study conducted by Skift Research show that 53% of travelers are willing to absorb the cost of paying more for environmentally-friendly products and services. Virgin Hotels, for one, has pledged to report its carbon footprint to show the effects of its green initiatives at various locations, a move that will surely keep guests returning for years to come.