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5 Operational Tips to Reduce and Eliminate Single-Use Plastic

August 10, 2021

In June this year, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and UNEP published a report on Rethinking Single-Use Plastic Products in Travel & Tourism.  

The report is written specifically for hospitality businesses, travel and tourism operators, accommodation businesses and policymakers and it’s USP is its practical approach to change.

Greener Guest co-founder Jo Hendrickx was the principle author of the report, she has worked with tourism businesses to help them to reduce unnecessary waste since 2011, during this time she has been able to observe what works well in terms of strategies and practical changes. 

The report has received excellent feedback and we would encourage you to read it and to check out the decision trees that will help you to make more informed decisions when it comes to eliminating, reducing or replacing single-use plastic products. 

In the meantime, we wanted to share 5 operational tips that we see businesses using to successfully reduce waste. 

1

IDENTIFY WHERE AND HOW WASTE IS BEING GENERATED

This includes all waste and not just single-use plastic as there are many other items that might be consumed unnecessarily. 

It is an unfortunate trend that many businesses think first about replacing single-use plastic products with similar products made from different materials, but this does nothing to tackle over consumption or waste.  We strongly encourage following the principles of the waste hierarchy which is to avoid any waste in the first place and to put reduction before replacement.  

If you haven’t done so already, undertake a baseline assessment of products used by the business, this enables you to prioritize your approach and to track your progress.

2

THINK ABOUT AND DISCUSS WHICH PROCESSES NEED TO CHANGE

Once you know which items are being consumed unnecessarily, the focus here is to think about process changes so that you can design unnecessary items out of your operations.  

For example, before you invest in single-use plastic coffee cups for ´hygiene reasons’ think about the processes that could enable you to minimize waste but still keep staff and customers safe such as the 4 steps to a contactless coffee

3

CAPTURE NEW PROCESSES BY WRITING THEM DOWN

Even if you are solopreneur we recommend having some form of capturing your processes in writing, and this is absolutely crucial if you work in or manage a larger business.  Staff change frequently in the hospitality sector so having written processes helps to ensure that you can easily train new people and keep things running smoothly.

It doesn’t have to be a lengthy document, just something that enables you or others to follow a course of action that helps you to ensure new processes are embedded. 

4

COMMUNICATE CHANGES TO STAFF AND CUSTOMERS

Ensuring that ALL staff know about the changes you are making is crucial, especially any that are in customer facing roles (on and offline).  These are usually the first people that your customers meet or interact with and they have a key role in communicating changes so that customer expectations continue to be met. 

Many successful businesses go a step further and proactively market the processes they are implementing to current and potential customers.  According to the Booking.com 2021 sustainable travel report, over 80% of guests want to stay in a sustainable hotel but almost half believe there aren’t enough sustainable travel options available.  You can stand out from the crowd by making sure your sustainability credentials are easy to find.

5

TRIAL CHANGES AND COLLECT FEEDBACK TO ASSESS SUCCESS

You need to know if the changes you are implementing are working so having a feedback mechanism is important.  It can be informal such as open chats with staff and customers or more formal via questionnaires.  

Ensure that someone also has responsibility for checking feedback left on third party booking sites, on social media and on review sites.  Use these opportunities to speak positively about any sustainable changes.  

Don’t be put off at the first sign of a complaint, change can take time to embed and not everyone embraces change immediately.  Recurring complaints may suggest a solution is not working as it should, but before going back to old wasteful ways, look for other solutions, maybe even invite your guests to suggest solutions if you think this would be well received.  

Finally, take it one step at a time and don’t let yourself become overwhelmed.  You can find a series of ready made Standard Operating Procedures that are free to download in our resources pages and if you want to go further, you can purchase the full Let’s Reduce Single-Use Manual in our marketplace. 

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Jo Hendrickx
Jo Hendrickx
Jo is a sustainability professional living in Gran Canaria with over 20 years of experience in the global tourism industry. She has worked extensively with hotels and accommodation providers around the world since 2001 helping managers to navigate the health, safety, quality and sustainability expectations of tour operators. Increasingly concerned with the impacts of unnecessary plastics, Jo was motivated to create Travel Without Plastic to support those hotels that want to make a difference.
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