Waste Reduction, Reuse And Recycle In Hotels

Waste management programmes can be more difficult for hotels to implement than other green initiatives because there are so many different types of waste to address, and good results require ongoing attention. However, successful programmes are financially rewarding, and they are noticed by hotel customers more than any other green initiative.

Hotels reduce their operating costs when they manage their waste stream well. Waste management programs cut costs by making some purchases unnecessary, save staff time and reduce trash disposal bills. However, disposal costs vary markedly by region, so some hotels reap greater savings than others. Also, recycling saves the most money when the economy is strong and commodity prices are high.

Waste management programs can increase hotel revenue, too. A growing number of conference planners and corporate purchasers now favor facilities that recycle. Some hotels consider their in-room recycling bins to be part of their internal marketing program that helps attract guests back to the hotel by demonstrating the organization’s environmental commitment.

Waste prevention, reuse and recycling are important for the environment, too. They save trees, reduce pollution from incinerators, save room in landfills and preserve non-renewable natural resources like petroleum and metal. Also, less energy is used when products are made from recycled materials. Thus, fewer greenhouse gases and air pollution are emitted.

Some Ways to Reduce Waste

Refillable amenity dispensers can replace soap, lotion, shampoo and conditioner bottles in hotel guestrooms. They reduce waste, slash operating costs and save time. Until recently, it was hard to find attractive dispensers, but now they are readily available.

Housekeeping managers save staff time when they buy highly concentrated cleaning supplies. These products are easier to transport within the facility and they require less storage space.

Hotel restaurants reduce waste by using washable table cloths and dinnerware, reusable coffee filters and by providing condiments in bulk dispensers. Hotels can eliminate bottled water waste by using filtered water instead.

There are many more waste prevention strategies that hotels could deploy, such as: eliminating unrequested newspapers; requiring documents to be printed on both sides of the page and with a smaller font and margins; asking hotel suppliers to reduce excess packaging; and having staff use permanent mugs and cups, rather than disposables.

Donate Items for Reuse

When hotels donate items for reuse, they can often claim a tax deduction. Hunger relief agencies will pick up unused food that meets their safety standards. Pig farmers take food waste, too. Shelters and other charities appreciate used linens, blankets, towels and toiletries. Some agencies accept old uniforms.

Furniture could be refinished and reused by hotels, or donated to worthy organizations. The cost of donating furniture is often less than the cost of disposing it. Some haulers specialize in transferring furniture to charities during renovations and move-outs. Domestic and international relief agencies use surplus property to furnish schools, hospitals, clinics, and homes.

Some products can be removed before renovation projects begin, including furniture, casework, carpeting, ceiling tiles, lighting (bulbs, ballasts and fixtures), wiring and cable, HVAC equipment and bathroom fixtures. Other materials can be dismantled before demolition, such as wood, windows, doors, porcelain fixtures, and partitions. After demolition, haulers will take away asphalt, brick, concrete, wood, metals, glass, roofing and mixed debris.

Hotels can reuse toner cartridges by shipping them to companies that remanufacture them. They can close this product lifecycle loop by purchasing remanufactured toner cartridges, at a fraction of the original price. Companies like www.re-inks.com and www.ink-refills-ink.com buy and sell recycled printer ink cartridges. Retailers like Lexmark, Office Depot and Staples take them back.

Certain items can be reused within hotels. For example, staff can reuse garbage can liners that are still clean. Torn towels could be used as cleaning rags.

Clearly Mark Recycling Containers

When hotels audit their recycling programs, they should assess how well they collect commonly recycled items that are part of the daily waste stream: cardboard, paper, plastic containers, metal and glass. Ideally, recycling bins should be located next to every trash container, look different than the trash containers and be clearly marked. If the facility recycles paper separately from bottles and cans, the bins should have different openings. For example, the opening for paper could be a slot, and the openings for cans could be round.

Until recently, it was difficult to find attractive recycling bins for guest rooms and public areas. Now, several companies offer them.

After improving the collection of the most commonly recycled materials, hoteliers should evaluate other commodities.

In some areas, hoteliers can find haulers that collect food waste, yard waste, and waxed cardboard, and take them to composting facilities. Food waste is one of the heaviest components of the hotel waste stream. In landfills, it creates methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Hotels without refrigerated storage space for food waste might find that they can participate for most of the year, but not during the hottest weeks of the summer when food waste becomes smelly.

Hotels that have their waste composted should consider using compostable cups, plates and utensils. These products are made from biodegradable materials like sugar cane or corn starch rather than petroleum. Of course, the greenest option is to use washable dinnerware.

Decomposition machines provide hotels with another alternative to trashing food. They benefit the environment by reducing the amount of material that must be trucked away and by keeping food waste out of landfills. However, decomposition machines increase the workload for sewage treatment facilities. I could not find a life cycle analysis that compares the environmental impact of decomposition machines with composting. However, I did survey a dozen environmental analysts, and they indicated that composting is usually preferable for hotels that have this option.

Purchasing Recycled-Content Products

When hoteliers purchase recycled-content products, they improve the market for the very materials that they recycle.

Hoteliers should consider buying the following recycled paper products: office paper (30 percent recycled paper performs about as well as virgin paper), toilet and facial tissue, napkins, menu paper and cardboard. Other common recycled-content products include glass bottles and jars, glass floor tiles, carpet, trash can liners, trash cans and plastic lumber. Recently, it has become possible to purchase recycled-content fabrics.