Where in your property is plastics waste generated? Many hotels still offer plastic water bottles in guestrooms and during meetings. Gift shops and vending machines are also a source of the bottles. Amenity bottles are also a source of plastics waste. Plastics waste may also come from packaging entering a property. Plastics should certainly be on your watch list as you try to green your hotel. According to the Worldwatch Institute, global production of plastics has continued to rise. Some 299 million tons of plastics were produced in 2013, representing a 4 percent increase over 2012. According to the United Nations Environmental Programme, an estimated 22 to 43 percent of the plastics used worldwide is disposed of in landfills, where its resources are wasted, the material takes up valuable space, and it blights communities. In the United States, only 9 percent of post-consumer plastics (2.8 million tons) was recycled in 2012. The remaining 32 million tons was discarded.
Feeling good about recycling the plastic your property does produce? Well, most plastic scraps from countries that have established collection systems for the material flow to China, which receives 56 percent (by weight) of waste plastic imports worldwide. “Indirect evidence suggests that most of this imported plastic is reprocessed at low-tech, family-run facilities with no environmental protection controls, such as proper disposal of contaminants or waste water,” says the Worldwatch Institute. “There are also concerns that low-quality plastics are not reused but are disposed of or incinerated for energy in plants that lack air pollution control systems.”
If you have been paying attention to the news, you know that tens of millions of tons of plastics end up in the oceans each year. A recent study conservatively estimated that 5.25 trillion plastic particles weighing a total of 268,940 tons are currently floating in the world’s oceans. This debris results in an estimated $13 billion a year in losses from damage to marine ecosystems, including financial losses to fisheries and tourism as well as time spent cleaning beaches. Animals such as seabirds, whales, and dolphins can become entangled in plastic matter, and floating plastic items—such as discarded nets, docks, and boats—can transport microbes, algae, invertebrates, and fish into non-native regions, affecting local ecosystems.
Eliminating plastics waste from your property not only reduces waste flow, it also helps to reduce the overall carbon footprint of your hotel. About 4 percent of the petroleum consumed worldwide each year is used to make plastic, and another 4 percent is used to power plastic manufacturing processes.
What have you done to reduce the use of plastics at your property? I would love to know. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.