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Can you blow your competition away by becoming a zero-waste hotel?

Around the world, hotel owners are looking for ways to stand out from their competition. How do you stand out? Quality? Comfort? Location? Customer Service? All of these? No doubt many in your category are offering the same high standards.

One way to stand out from your competition is to move towards zero waste. It sounds big and it sounds scary, but you can do it in baby steps and over time, rather than through a big cultural shift in your business.

A milestone achievement for any environmental plan, moving to zero waste will show your guests you not only care about the impact of your hotel, you are acting on it. And it will put you in the lead for environmental achievements of hoteliers worldwide.

What is zero waste ?

Zero waste is about developing strategies and tools to not just manage waste, but avoid generating waste in the first place as much as possible. The most significant impact will be achieved by reducing the amount of waste you send to landfill, with the ultimate goal to have none left. But every single step in that direction has a positive impact. By creating a circular economy around resources, rather than a linear one, we can all benefit from improved environmental outcomes.

Man develop a inventory

Getting started doesn’t need to be difficult.

The best place to start is to develop an inventory of waste across all areas of your hotel. Common areas are Housekeeping, Catering, Office, Maintenance and Facilities. Most waste in hotels is generated in Housekeeping and Catering. A thorough inventory will reveal all waste, particularly those you may not immediately think of, like the packaging on linen deliveries. It also makes sense to distinguish separately collected waste that will enter recycling streams and unsorted waste whose final fate will be disposal by incineration or landfill.

Once you have your waste inventory, then you can start to look at ways you can reduce the amount of waste you create. It doesn’t need to be all at once – pick an area to begin, like detergent packaging, and use your measurement for motivation. Your inventory will be your starting point for measuring changes to your waste – you need to know where you started, to see how far you’ve come. Once you start seeing positive change, it’s easy to use the motivation from your success to build bigger successes.

Accommodation waste is usually varied, similar to household waste, with organic, glass, paper and cardboard, plastics and metals making up the bulk of waste. An efficient waste management strategy, developed from your inventory, can reduce waste by over 50%.

Imagine… less waste means lower waste collection costs and a happier environment. Everyone wins! Moreover, this new focus on measuring your results can lead to better choices in purchasing. Pay attention to what you throw away – maybe you buy too much food and it goes off before it is eaten? Buying smaller amounts will also add up to your savings and will make achieving zero waste easier!

More and more hotels of all sizes throughout Europe are working towards or within the goal of zero waste. The Conca Park is a 205 room hotel in Sorrento, Italy, which proudly advertises its zero waste achievement across their website. They undertook a number of initiatives to reduce their waste including replacing all single portion and disposable items, introduced water dispensers to reduce the use of bottled water, replaced a number of plastic items with recyclable or compostable materials and achieved over 80% recycled waste

At a smaller scale, a 14-room hotel and restaurant in the UK, Strattons Hotel, recycles or reuses 98% of waste. In addition to the environmental and social benefits, this saves the business more than EUR 1 000 each year in waste disposal costs.

Zero waste can seem like a daunting, even impossible, task, so don’t let it discourage you. To help you get started on your journey to zero-waste, you can already try to measure yourself against others in the industry and try to achieve levels that the best performers are already reaching.The European Commission’s Best Environmental Management Practice in Tourism report (2013) offers a number of Benchmarks for Excellence in relation to efficient waste management.

These Benchmarks include:

  • 01. At least 84% of waste, by weight, is recycled
  • 02. Unsorted waste sent for disposal is less than 0.16kg per guest per night
  • 03. Total waste (sorted and unsorted) is less than 0.6kg per guest per night.

How do I get there? Reduce, reuse, sort, recycle.

Reducing waste is easiest done by not creating it in the first place. Some easy strategies include:

  • Look at replacing single serve toiletries and food packaging with refillable dispensers
  • Monitor stock levels on perishable items, to prevent over-ordering.
  • Select suppliers who don’t use unnecessary packaging, or who provide a return service on packaging
  • Replace plastic water bottles with refillable glass and tap or filtered water

Reusing items may be within the hotel or items forwarded on for other uses

  • Glass refillable bottles for guest water.
  • Selling or donating furniture no longer required.

Sorting items for recycling collection. Develop a process to sort all waste for collection, including:

  • Paper and cardboard
  • Aluminium cans and plastic packaging
  • Glass bottles

Find out what other types of waste can be recycled in your region. If you have a restaurant, cooking oils may be recycled for producing biofuel. If food waste is not collected separately in your town, you can start composting it on site or find local partners who are already doing composting and may take your food waste too.

Recycling the sorted items you have collected, in collaboration with your local waste management company.



Looking at the end results before you get there can make achieving zero waste appear a much bigger and more unmanageable process than it needs to be. Undertake an inventory, discover where the changes can be made, and work from there. You don’t need to do it all at once. When you have your baseline waste inventory, make one easy change, such as replacing bottled water in disposable bottles by returnable bottles or tap water in reusable bottles. Monitor the changes to your waste patterns as they happen. Keep your staff informed and engaged with the process and the progress of the program. Then move to the next change. Perhaps replacing bins in guest rooms with sorting bins. And move to the next change.

Before you realise, you’ll be knocking on the door of achieving zero waste.

Do you want to know more about this topic? Check the following best practice: