November 18, 2020
By Cvent

Did you know that, of the 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste that has accrued over the years, only 9% has been recycledBy learning about hotel recycling, brands can help reduce the occurrence of extreme weather events, preserve diverse ocean wildlife, and delay potential water shortages, all of which pose major threats to guests, the hospitality industry, and the rest of the world. Keep reading to learn step by step instructions for how to make and launch a hotel recycling program with examples from industry-leading brands.

Do hotels recycle? 

Yes, many hotels recycle, including famous brands such as IHG, Hilton, and Marriott. Properties typically create their own programs. Some choose to hire an off-site waste reduction company to take care of processing while others buy machines for tasks such as composting and do it themselves. Many hotels now hire a program manager to oversee and implement hotel recycling strategies. The most successful hotel recycling plans think long term.

Discover how to launch a hotel recycling program:

To launch a hotel recycling program, come up with a property recycling map, procedure outline, and waste reduction plan. Then, educate staff and engage guests to maximize the effect of your program. 

1. Create a map

Map out all of the places in the hotel where people generate waste, including rooms, the gym, the onsite salon, and much more. Remember to think about outdoor spaces too. 

After you have your hotel recycling map for both indoor and outdoor spaces, color code it by priority. Areas that have the highest trashcan turnover and utility usage such as gyms, lawns, and kitchens should be ranked higher than spaces with less foot traffic and fewer opportunities for waste (think hallways outside ballrooms that have only a couple bins staged outside). 

Free download: 2021 guide to sustainable meetings for hotels

2. Define recycling categories

Note what types of waste is thrown away at each location and label your map accordingly. Your recycling program must follow the Duty of Care Regulationswhich outlines how to be compliant with U.S. government laws regarding commercial properties and recycling. To do so, start by clearly defining what waste is. Anything that can be thrown away or used counts.
Each waste type will need its own storage plan, which is why labeling your map now will save time later on. 

There are two main umbrella categories: biodegradable and non-biodegradable. Biodegradable waste is also referred to as “wet” waste. Around 70 to 75% of hotel waste is biodegradable, so this will make up the bulk of your map. Examples include wilted produce and used printer paper. Hotels often recycle their own biodegradable waste by composting it on site and using it to fertilize gardens. 

Non-biodegradable waste includes non-recyclable plastics, glass wine bottles, and tin foil. Anything that doesn’t have the ability to naturally break down into safe substances over time fits into this category. Hotel properties will need to hire a customized recycling service or physically take the items to a nearby collection facility to properly dispose of them. Or, hoteliers may opt to reuse and repurpose specific types of items. For example, alcohol bottles can be upcycled into gorgeous centerpieces for weddings and formal events

Biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste can be further labeled as hazardous and non-hazardous. Some obvious examples of hazardous waste include leaky batteries and spilled cleaning chemicals. 

3. Outline procedures

Make a plan for collecting, storing, and repurposing each waste type. Assign specific tasks such as changing out trash bags and monitoring water usage to the appropriate team members. Come up with a day-to-day recycling schedule that centers around your chosen waste pickup or processing day. For example, natural food waste can be collected in a lined bin every day by kitchen staff, stored in the walk-in fridge until Sunday, and composted in a machine behind the building for future flower beds. If you choose to partner with a third-party recycling facility, be sure to follow their preparation instructions carefully. Some waste can easily end up in landfills if it’s not properly disposed of or rinsed ahead of time. 

Plan to do the bulk of your recycling onsite? Consider these popular methods.

  • Composting and vermicomposting: Allowing non-hazardous, biodegradable waste to naturally break down and mix into simpler matter with or without assistance from various species of worms.
  • Biomethanation: Using a reactor system to turn specific types of waste into renewable gas. 
  • Bio sanitizing: Naturally breaking down substances by letting it sit in a designated storage area that would not be suitable for reuse as fertilizer. 

4. Reduce waste

Aim to eliminate at least one of your recycling categories from your map or, at the very least, decrease waste within each type. Start with these popular categories:

  • Light bulbsTrade regular light bulbs for LED ones to improve sustainability and save money. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “residential LEDs -- especially ENERGY STAR rated products -- use at least 75% less energy, and last 25 times longer, than incandescent lighting.” Saving energy reduces air and water pollution as well as light bulb budgets. 
  • Single-use products. Extended stay hotels can swap frequently used items such as paper towels, napkins, and plastic cutlery for long-lasting alternatives. By using hand dryers and washcloths in bathrooms instead of paper towels, hotels can decrease the rate of deforestation, global warming, and waste. In the United States alone, paper towels account for no less than 2% of landfill wasteso it’s clear why small changes like these will have a significant impact. 
  • Toiletries. Swap miniature bottles for bulk-size toiletries instead like the InterContinental Hotels Group did. Keith Barr, CEO of IHG, notes, “Switching to larger-size amenities across more than 5,600 hotels around the world is a big step in the right direction and will allow us to significantly reduce our waste footprint and environmental impact as we make the change.” This has saved the property an average of 200 million discarded mini product bottles per year. 
  • SoapAs Simon Vincent, Executive Vice President and President, EMEA, Hilton said: "It is our responsibility to protect our natural resources and ensure destinations across the world are preserved for generations to come. The expansion of our soap recycling programme not only helps us to reach our environmental goals, but also contributes towards tackling the significant hygiene epidemic which sees around 3,600 children under five die every day due to lack of access to clean soap and water." Designate special used soap drop off areas in the lobby, add a soap recycling bin in the bathrooms, or have them drop it off at checkout. 

5. Use strategic partnerships

Align with local businesses, farms, and suppliers to reduce your carbon footprint and give back to the community. Room service and hotel restaurants are a great place to start. “When envisioning the plans for Secret Bay and The Residences at Secret Bay, the idea was to create an intimate, sustainable, and timeless experience that worked harmoniously with nature,” says Gregor Nassief, proprietor of Secret Bay and Chairman and CEO of GEMS Holdings Limited, of the property’s dedication to the environment and sustainable food systems. Get inspiration from their regenerative gastronomy which uses permaculture, local garden-to-table ingredients, and a no menu policy which allows them to stop over-ordering and start using produce that’s in season at their location. 

6. Teach employees 

Create new standards and add them to training handbooks. Put up signage with large symbols and lettering to indicate what waste goes where. And commit to environmentalism as a “stewardship” rather than an obligation by adding sustainable practices to daily operations, guest touchpoints, and managerial mindsets. Put your entire hotel recycling program in writing, share your maps and plans, and properly communicate it all with staffers like you would for any other important policy. 

7. Engage guests

One easy way to get guests on board with your hotel recycling plan is to connect bins with goals. Place recycling bins with the proper signage right inside guest rooms to encourage proper disposal of cardboard, plastic, and even batteries. Persuade guests to recycle by including reasons why they should, along with statistics about how much using the bins actually impacts the hotel’s greater sustainability goals. 

“Travellers are increasingly concerned about the impact of tourism on the destinations they visit, so it’s important that we are transparent with our sustainability efforts and how we’re progressing,” explains Marriott International Asia Pacific’s Group President Craig Smith.

Lead by example by itemizing your hotel’s financial investments back into the local community. Copy the Fogo Island Inn and outline exactly how your property gives back to the community by itemizing it on guests' checkout receipt. “Where possible, money belongs right here on Fogo Island, in constant circulation to benefit the entire community,” says Shorefast CEO Zita Cobb. 

Add lines for:

  • Employee wages
  • Materials costs
  • Operations
  • Sales
  • Contribution to community programs

Additionally, find ways to incentivize guests with rewards. The Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills rewards those who drive electric vehicles through complimentary parking. They also added more charging stations and offer complimentary car washes that don’t use water. “Our partnership with ENVi (a waterless car wash system) is a seamless extension of our commitment to taking proactive measures to aid our water-stressed environment,” says Managing Director Offer Nissenbaum. 

Also, aim to make the experience even more valuable for guests so they can see why your system is better. For example, MGM Resorts’ Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer Kelly Smith says, “the arrival experience sets the stage for an entire stay, so we designed the (digital room key) app to expedite check-in and elevate the process to be quicker and easier. The app will continue to evolve, adding more value for our guests.” You may even want to use it as a selling point in future marketing campaigns

How do hotels reduce waste?

Hotels reduce waste by decreasing water usage, replacing single-use products, and using environmentally-friendly products. They also reduce waste by composting, creating better policies, and educating guests on how they can help the environment. 

What are the 3 types of recycling?

The three types of recycling are:

  1. Primary: Turning leftovers into a new version of that same product
  2. Secondary: Turning leftovers into an entirely new product without chemicals
  3. Tertiary: Turning leftovers into an entirely new product with chemicals 

Get started following these hotel recycling tips today!

There's a lot hotels can do every single day to reduce food, energy, and water waste. In addition to regular operations, hotels should consider how they’ll handle special occasions such as onsite events. In addition to your recycling program, we cover a bunch of eco-friendly hotel ideas to help save the environment and boost your business. 

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Cvent is a leading meetings, events, and hospitality technology provider with more than 4,500 employees and nearly 21,000 customers worldwide.

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