The Important Role Recycling Plays in Hotel Sustainability Initiatives

Recycling is one area where small changes can make a large impact for hoteliers.
Michal Christine Escobar
Senior Editor, Hotels
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Sustainability is quickly becoming a trend that hoteliers need to both accept and excel at. Why? Restaurant diners and hotel guests care about sustainable business practices, especially millennials and Gen Z. Not only are they looking for brands that willingly follow environmentally friendly business practices, but they’re also willing to pay more for products that won’t harm the environment or deplete natural resources.

Hoteliers have a myriad of options at their fingertips to help them become more eco-friendly. To learn more about these options, Hospitality Technology spoke with Chris Skelly, Senior Manager of Implementation, RoadRunner Recycling, a provider of end-to-end sustainable waste management solutions for many industries, including hospitality.

How do hotels contribute to climate change?

Hotels make up roughly 10% of RoadRunner Recycling’s total service locations, and when it comes to waste disposal, the top challenges we’ve seen is contaminated recycling and throwing recyclables in the trash. While “wishcycling” or throwing something in a bin and hoping it gets recycled somewhere down the line, is the path of least resistance. The truth is most of the materials head straight to landfills, which are the third largest source of methane emissions. 

Hotels can help make a difference in the fight against climate change by revamping their recycling strategies and sustainability efforts. While it may be difficult for some hospitality businesses to implement change depending on the building’s infrastructure and customer behavior, recycling is an area where a big impact can be made.

What are some ways hotels can prevent/stop that contribution?

On the surface, it may not seem like there are too many opportunities to recycle, but there are. The first step is to work with the operations team since they can help to find sustainable improvements in the larger processes. Similar to how many hotels have started only offering fresh towels and toiletries when asked to reduce waste, hotels can also implement multi-stream disposal bins and recycling guidance to help guests and employees recycle properly. These simple yet effective operational changes can go a long way toward reducing a hotel's carbon footprint. 

What are some of the common issues hotels face when it comes to disposing of waste/recycling responsibly?

A challenge we often run into when speaking with prospective hospitality clients is that they don’t know they have options when choosing waste and recycling services. Oftentimes, they have a contract with the national waste hauler that collects through single-stream disposal, not knowing there are other options available that can help implement a pre-sorted recycling system that increases recycling efforts at a lower cost. Another challenge is usually educating staff on how to recycle properly. It’s not that they don’t want to, but it can be complicated. So, working with a strategic recycling partner really helps with this education with training and clearly marked pre-sort bins. In fact, we see that sustainability, climate change, and recycling are taught at some of the schools we manage, and education goes a long way toward improving recycling efforts.

Are consumers looking to stay at eco-friendly hotels?

Yes, according to a Sustainable Travel Report by, 87% of global travelers said they want to travel sustainably and 67% are willing to spend more to do, showing there is potential for an economic and environmental incentive to improve recycling and zero-waste initiatives. As sustainability continues to be a top priority for consumers across industries, we can expect more hospitality businesses to implement these efforts. 

The hospitality industry has an opportunity to reduce its impact on the climate, and it can start with setting zero waste initiatives. In the world of sustainability, recycling and reducing waste to landfill can be an easy place to start that can have a big impact.


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