The toiletries at the hotel. | Hotel Gloria Sant Jaume

We are in times of change and transformation on many levels, this also means that we are all becoming more conscious and aware of the environment. Cloth, paper or wicker shoppers are once again taking over from plastic bags and so many other things are returning to their origin in order to be sustainable. This is not a trend, it is a reality that needs to be taken as a priority by all of us. The new law on waste and polluted soil (Ley de Residuos y suelos contaminados de les Illes Balears. ley 8/2019, de 19 de febrero BOIB Núm. 23 de 21-02-2019) released this year by the Government of the Balearics prohibits the use of the so called “single use plastics”. What does this mean? How does it affect us? What implications does it have on tourism?

When we begin to think, we are surrounded by plastic and such a large proportion we use only once before discarding it. I propose a very simple exercise; Take a “plastic bag” and collect all the bits of single use plastic that you generate over one day. By these, I mean any bit of plastic whether it’s a tiny seal or a container and you will see that by the end of the day you will have collected a large volume. Then glance over it and think about how many bits could have been spared. At the end dispose of it into the yellow container. If you carry this exercise out on holiday you would be surprised by how much more plastic you would collect over the course of a day. Over the years hotels have become kingdoms of “mono-dosage”. Individualized portions of jam, cereals, toiletries among many others are much appreciated by guests as they are hygienic and an added value to service. Don’t be surprised if on your next hotel visit you find none of these items. We are in times where things need to go back to how they once were or re-invent themselves.

Often the rating and overall satisfaction of a hotel for guests is the quality of the bathroom amenities. For many of us they are a luxury to pamper ourselves during our stay or even a souvenir to take back home and display in the bathroom . It is now common even in the best establishments to find refillable dispensers of shampoo, conditioner and gel hanging conveniently in the shower. Following the need of reducing plastic all manufacturers from the most basic lines to the most luxurious brands offer their products in these more eco-friendly refillable formats. Some do offer mono-dosages packaged in recycled plastics with environmental messages as the contents also need to be biodegradable. So it’s important to be aware and not to be disappointed.

Toothbrushes, shaving kits, combs and others are now manufactured out of sustainable materials such as coconut fibres or bamboo. These are also presented in less packaged formats so for hygienic reasons only available upon request. High end hotels generally offer night slippers for all guests, they are presented in plastic bags to prove they are unused, and made out of fabric, paper and plastic they get binned after every use. In most cases they are only used for a very small amount of time during the guests stay but they are an item that guests expect to receive in their room. Sometimes we need to make the reflexion as a guest on how many of these things we really need during our stay. Personally I have adopted a pair from a recent hotel visit and they now live in my suitcase so I use them again and again giving me the satisfaction that I am contributing in a small manner. This whole scenario really does involve a drastic change of chip on behalf of the hotel but also on behalf of the guest as many of these small details add value to the overall experience so it is the duty of the hotelier to be creative and offer other more sustainable substitutes. All these actions are not a cost saving strategy of hotel firms, they are a compromise with the future.

Hotel buffets are also a large source of single use plastics originally introduced for health and safety. Long gone are the days where you would find a large bowl filled with jam or cereal and where everyone helped themselves with the same spoon and other non-hygienic habits. At this point in time it is a challenge to present a buffet that complies with health and safety and is eco-friendly, especially in large resorts. Food dispensers are the way ahead, although they seem very industrial and unwelcoming but if they are well maintained they are perfectly acceptable. Variety is also a creative way of proposing a solution. Offering many different types or flavours of one product allows containers to be smaller and therefore refilled more often guaranteeing better quality of the product. So many items are affected: jams, butter, cereals, ketchup, mustard, sauces, ice-cream, pastries…. Once again don’t be taken by surprise when the presentation of a buffet has been re-designed in order to produce less residue as the best form of residue is the one that is not generated.

The list of single use plastics in hotels is very long so I am only pointing out the ones that have most impact on the service towards clients. In holiday resorts with swimming pools the volume of single use plastics such as, cups, plates, cutlery, straws…is very large but a must when consuming anything around the pool. The market has already re-invented itself and there is a large offer of biodegradable alternatives produced out of recycled materials or natural fibres. In this case the perception for the guest is less noticeable. I do find it striking that now all these items come with an expiry date as once they are unboxed they begin to degrade due to temperature and humidity so we will need to make sure they are all used up by the end of the season!

Most of us are familiar with recycling and have incorporated it as part of our everyday life. Why change this habit whilst on holiday? Hotels face the difficulty of separating the scrap produced by guests if they do not do so. It is now common to find separated bins in public spaces but also in the rooms to encourage recycling and simplify the task for the housekeeping staff. Everyone needs to become conscious, both professionals and clients as it’s a balance between both sides for all these actions to take place and be successful.

At Cabau Hotels group we are taking all these actions very seriously and have created a short, medium and long-term action plan to become greener within all structures of our company. We are investing in education of staff to approach the understanding and methods involved. We are eliminating residues in all the possible areas although it will still take a while until this is completely implemented as we are still analyzing all the alternatives that will be best for the environment and guests. Long-term we have planned investments for energy saving as this is another important aspect to be considered in our type of organizations. Above all I would like to stress the importance of all these actions and the need of all of us to become more conscious about our surroundings and the impact we leave behind us whether we are at home or on holiday.

I will conclude by stating the 4 R’s principle: REDUCE - REDUCE - REPLACE -RECYCLE

· Reduce your overall use of plastics

· Reuse all items when possible

· Replace single use items for more natural alternatives such as wood, corn starch, bamboo or paper

· Recycle all items you use and avoid using items that cannot be recycled.