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Three Ways the Hospitality Industry Can Reduce Waste in 2018


From Hyatt’s new sustainable headquarters in Chicago to Marriott’s Serve 360 platform and Caesars Entertainment Group’s CodeGreen, large hospitality industry players are committing to reduce their environmental impact by cutting down on carbon, energy, water, and waste.

This positive environmental trend challenges global organizations, from established hotel chains to new boutiques, to rethink the traditional business model – one where 25 percent of all food passing through kitchens gets thrown out, recycling containers are still uncommon in guestrooms, and leak detection systems are installed in only 21 percent of hotel properties.

Without change, the hospitality industry’s environmental footprint will only expand as international tourism is expected to grow 4 to 5 percent in 2018. By 2030, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) anticipates the travel and tourism industry will need to sustainably manage a daunting 1.8 billion international tourists. Effective waste management practices will become critical to maximizing profits and reducing resource consumption. The average person in the U.S. generates more than 4 pounds of waste per day and landfill costs are on the rise. In 2017, the average price to dispose municipal solid waste (MSW) increased 3.5 percent from 2016 to $50.60 per ton.

While hospitality industry leaders recognize the need for change, they face unique challenges – a transient workforce, multiple cultures under one roof, and a waste stream as diverse as a small city’s. But, with a little perseverance, gumption, and creativity, hoteliers will find that their trash holds the key to cost savings and opportunity. This article from ENGIE Insight discusses three ways to get started:

Dumpster dive for data. Before organizations can set new goals and achieve them, they need to understand where their waste comes from. Capturing qualitative and quantitative waste data from waste bills, and the trash itself, enables hotels to build a business case for waste reduction, identify new opportunities for recycling and food waste programs, and target org-wide training programs to maximize diversion. While implementing major changes immediately is tempting, having the patience to compile data will set a strong baseline to measure progress and substantiate where to prioritize.

Set real benchmarks to achieve goals. Defining measurable data, then setting benchmarks toward measurable goals is key to long-term success. And, identifying the right data to measure progress against is critical.

Goals should align to metrics that the organization can measure continuously. Ideally, data as granular as waste generation at the site-level will help organizations identify trends and targets to focus on by geographic region, site function, or department. For example, hotels might set different goals for the kitchen than housekeeping based on the differences in their waste stream. Diversion, which is the percentage of total waste kept out of the landfill, is the most common metric for waste reduction, but it’s not the only one. Waste can fluctuate due to the economy, opening or closing locations, and changes in packaging, so measuring tons of waste generated against a specific metric, such as items sold or people served, can be much more effective.

Know the local landscape. Hotel organizations with multiple sites nationwide and globally must adjust best practices around local regulations and recycling and composting programs. At 21 percent, food waste is the largest contributor to landfills. Nationally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency aim to cut current food loss in half, equaling $66 billion by 2030. Additionally, states and cities are implementing legislation, such as California’s AB 1826, which requires businesses to compost food waste rather than send it to a landfill. These regulations not only inspire hotel organizations to examine their produce sourcing, food donations, and waste separation programs, but are also driving infrastructure changes to increase composting accessibility.

Many companies also delegate managing waste haulers to site managers. In addition to their existing responsibilities, these managers must select between a convoluted mix of major national, regional and small local haulers, each with different pricing, rate increase schedules, recycling programs, service levels, and reporting abilities. As long as the waste goes away each week, many site managers don’t ask questions. 

Recognizing how local sites contribute to the bigger picture will drive a tailored but cohesive strategy. By better understanding recycling programs available to each geographic location and the local regulations, companies can more effectively determine the waste profile at each site and optimize container volumes and service frequencies. 

Data is the key to turning a sustainability dream into reality - to thinking strategically about both financial and environmental costs and embracing a holistic approach to waste reduction. For Caesars Entertainment Group, looking at waste expense data and a literal dumpster dive inspired new waste initiatives.

First, Caesars needed to put its waste data into an analyzable format. Historically, the company’s waste invoices varied by utility, making focusing waste programs difficult. Second, the company dug deep into its data to understand tonnage and haul counts, and married these findings with the data from their waste audits. As a result, Caesars launched a waste management program to align with its unique needs, including one that recycled wine corks and diverted alcohol bottles from the restaurant waste streams. Since 2012, Caesars has diverted more than 270,000 tons of waste away from landfills, achieving a diversion rate of more than 40% during the last four years.

So, how will you make a difference?

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