Date: 17-09-2018

Plastic - the most versatile material used in our day to day life - has raised global concerns due to its serious downsides on the environment and health. The fate of our planet is subject to the way we handle plastic and its careful disposal. It is not something new that every year eight million metric tons of plastic waste is being disposed in our oceans.

The plastic waste if not disposed properly ends up in landfills and oceans. This results in piling up of trash in the landfills as it takes 1,000 years to decompose, thus destroying the eco system and harming wildlife. In the oceans, plastic waste/plastic bottles have formed a layer popularly known as the garbage patch. There are five garbage patches in the oceans already. As most plastics are not biodegradable, they split into smaller pieces called micro plastics, which float all over the sea. These micro plastic particles are being consumed by sea creatures. The odds are that these fish might land up on our plate and lead to serious health hazards…

How to handle the plastic waste?

Plastics and plastic bottles finding their way into a recycling bin should be the best and only option. Being collected, compacted, shredded, melted and made into a new product will definitely help save the environment. There is not much to debate when it comes to disposable items in hotels. We are just waking up to removing plastic straws and stirrers from guest rooms and restaurants. But is this an initiative that will help save our planet from drowning in plastic waste? Certainly not!

Do we really need to cover the suit for delivery after it is dry cleaned? Shouldn’t laundry bags be washable and re-used? Can’t we go back to water bottles that can be collected and re-used? Slippers are another filler for the bins, including the plastic wrapper they are supplied in. There are many other items in hotels, especially in guest rooms, that are disposable items and should be re-evaluated as for their relevant use.

But, probably the biggest threat for our environment is the small amenity bottles in the guest bathrooms and the ancillary items. An average size hotel of 400 rooms uses around 3,00,000 small amenity bottles a year and 5,000 kg of soap. Multiply this number by all the hotels in UAE. Where does all this stuff go once it is disposed into the bin?

Its time hoteliers start thinking about their environmental sustainability and how to reduce or eliminate all the single use plastic in the guest rooms. I'd recently travelled to Europe and stayed at some simple but great hotels. None of them had amenity bottles provided in their showers instead they had installed dispensers for body wash and/or shampoo and conditioner. Some of the products were really good, dermatologically tested and had a very pleasant fragrance, too. In the UAE, there are several companies that provide these dispenser units with branded toiletries inside. Its high time the hospitality industry follow these steps and consider reducing plastic usage and while thinking of alternatives.

About the Author: Tatjana Ahmed is the Chairwoman of the UAE Professional Housekeepers’ Group. She is also the Housekeeping Manager, Grand Hyatt Dubai and a Functional Specialist with the group.