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plastics debate hospitality housekeeping industry

PLASTICS: the big debate

Many of our housekeepers and their suppliers were ahead of the rest when it comes to environmentally-friendly operating practices which impress guests.

Janice Raycroft reports

For some hotels and guesthouses the green message is paramount – it’s what they do, week in, week out as ‘eco hotels’ – while for others it ’s been a series of stepping stones alongside an increasingly discerning clientele. When the term ‘single-use’ was announced as Word of the Year for 2018 by Collins Dictionary it confirmed the worldwide depth of public awareness of an environmental crisis caused by discarded plastic.

TV programmes such as Blue Planet fuelled their own ‘tidal wave’ of both condemnation and demands for action. Sustainability, with particular emphasis on plastics usage in wrapping and ‘single-use’ nonrecyclable parts, will continue to be a watchword in the years to come, with hotel management teams expected to demonstrate their commitment.

In the UK it is estimated that 70 per cent of hospitality businesses are planning to reduce single-use plastics in their operations. While news that chains such as Marriott and InterContinental are removing free toiletries in small plastic bottles makes headlines, other operations have been at the forefront of such campaigns for some time.

It’s very much a way of life for everyone at The Green House Hotel, a luxury boutique hotel operating from a Grade II Victorian villa in the heart of Bournemouth.

bournemouth the green house hotel
Award-winning, The Green House at Bournemouth, has been at the forefront of rejecting single use plastic containers among a host of ecofriendly initiatives.

Voted the Best Green Hotel by Condé Nast, the hotel opened to critical acclaim in 2010 following an 18 month environmentally considered refurbishment. A lot of the electricity is generated on site, all 32 rooms are fitted with locally-made 100 per cent wool carpets and sumptuously comfortable bespoke eco beds. Solid wood furniture has been produced in the UK using trees felled by storms and even the wallpaper is Forest Stewardship Council certified and made in the UK using vegetable inks.

green house bathroom refillable bottles
A guest bathroom at The Green House, where bottles are refillable

The award winning restaurant concentrates on local, ethically produced products. But even smaller operations, and those where environmentally friendly practices are a theme rather than the ethos, can easily adopt some simple measures demonstrated by The Green House when it comes to reducing plastic usage. For instance, UHT milk containers in bedrooms can be replaced with fresh milk in reusable flasks. Guests will appreciate the green message here, as they will in discovering toiletries in refillable bottles, a reduction in the use of Tetra packs for juice and milk, and plastic bottles replaced with recyclable glass ones. Some 520 miles away at The Fairmont St Andrews hotel in Fife, ‘the green’ usually refers to the spectacular golfing opportunities at the resort with its fine dining restaurants and spa facilities used by occupants of its 212 guest rooms.

But last autumn the hotel, an AA Eco Hotel of the Year, joined a Scottish initiative which should save usage of some 55,000 plastic bottles a year. The Green Tourism programme sees the AccorHotels property joining Scottish Water’s Your Water Your Life campaign. This encourages people to drink the country’s fine tap water. Out go plastic bottles and installation of three water fountains around the resort means guests can refill their own water bottles whenever they wish. What might surprise many is some of the ingenious ways the existing pile up of plastic bottles and other items is being put to better use.

hypnos contract beds chris ward
Chris Ward of Hypnos Contract Beds delights in ensuring that old beds do not go into landfill – and that recycled plastic products are being used in the construction of some products.

When it comes to beds, Hypnos has developed successful partnerships with major hotel groups around the world in an effort to help them to drive sustainability. This includes those made from recycled plastic bottles, as well as FSC and PEFC certified timbers that have been sourced from managed forests, to create an ethically conscious product. Chris Ward, group marketing director at Hypnos Contract Beds, says: “One way of tackling waste is to work with external suppliers which place a high priority on recycling. For example, Hypnos aims to help hotels eradicate the waste.

associated with old beds with a hassle-free disposal and recycling service, deconstructing them to create recycled raw materials for reuse in other industries. “This responsible approach results in 100 per cent landfill avoidance and offers a green way of disposing of old mattresses, beds and bedding.” He sees this as part of a coordinated approach which includes using technology to maximise energy usage efficiency: “Increasing awareness about sustainability issues has seen customers and guests becoming more discerning about the businesses they deal with. By taking steps in these three areas – waste, efficiency and suppliers – hotels can enhance their reputation and attract more customers.” The growth of organisations and online websites promoting ethical travel also demonstrates the public interest. Green Tourism, a not-forprofit organisation, began in Scotland over two decades ago with a mission to encourage people to make sustainable choices.

It now has some 2,000 eco-friendly accommodation providers across the world. Avoiding single-use plastics is a main theme of their 2019 campaign and at they have a host of tips for how the sector can achieve its aims. In addition to this there is, which also produces comprehensive and authoritative guides, only featuring accommodation genuinely committed to sustainable tourism, on issues including recycling and whether bulk dispensers are used instead of miniatures for toiletries.

While guests are delighted to spot green initiatives, responsible hotels are also showing commitment here in what goes on ‘behind the scenes’, expecting suppliers of equipment and consumables to demonstrate their own efforts. Mick Christian of Electrolux Professional reveals: “We’ve looked at how we can eliminate single-use products that will inevitably end up in landfill or polluting oceans and find eco-friendly alternatives to replace them with.

For example, the polyroll used to wrap garments that have been processed with our lagoon® Advanced Care system is biodegradable which offers a unique and environmentally-friendly selling point to encourage guests to use an onsite laundry service. “Furthermore, a product that is made up of biodegradable material naturally solves the problem of plastic toxins leaching into water systems and causing pollution as they are made from natural materials. This is ideal for hotels looking to invest in sustainable laundry solutions, from efficient equipment right down to the smaller, add-on, offerings, such as polyroll.”

In recent years, over 70 per cent of Electrolux Professional product features have been updated with the environmental needs of customers in mind. They have also taken steps to demonstrate their own commitment beyond plasticfree solutions, such as using electricity from renewable sources and offering comprehensive training to hotel managers and their staff, who are looking to improve their establishment ’s laundry sustainability. Like the hotels they serve, suppliers are aware that a token approach to green issues will not do. The clientele on both sides of the counter are becoming increasingly knowledgeable through personal choice and interest.

At Ideal, manufacturers of laundry, textile care, hygiene and cleaning products, boss Phillip Kalli is monitoring the war against plastic across the planet, from his own business’s use of the substance to South Korea’s new ban on plastic bags. That high energy Asian economies are enacting environmental legislation demonstrates the worldwide strength of the green message. But much of his focus, and taxing his brain, is on what we might call the logistics of the environmental drive within the laundry and cleaning sector.

Kalli says: “We have to be transparent on the eco benefits of products, such as them being phosphate-free, and the use of reconditioned plastic containers as opposed to virgin plastic, but there’s a lot more to it than that and our customers – and theirs – are now looking at the fine detail. They know it is about more than doing away with some plastic bags.” For Kalli this includes the question of carbon footprint when you refill the likes of glass or plastic containers.

The bigger the container and use of concentrates, the fewer trips to refill. And then there’s the cost equation: negotiating from a supplier a deal which makes the most environmentally-friendly products also financially viable for all, from production and delivery right through to the end user. Kalli finishes by saying: “It can be frustrating that we can’t do everything at once, but I think for most businesses the easiest and swiftest one to tackle is the eradication of single use items.”


Housekeeping Today March-April 2019 FinalYou’ll find the more articles in the March/April edition of Housekeeping Today UK. Subscribe for your edition or browse online here.

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