Updated July 2021
Hotel Toiletries – Are Things Finally Changing for the Better?
Our team at Green Getaways Australia is often contacted by accommodation operators looking to find the best hotel toiletries for their properties.
What should we look for? How do we know if the products are genuinely eco-friendly? Which is more important: the packaging or the ingredients? What happens to the partially used bottles?
When travelling, most hotel guests expect hotel toiletries and mini amenities in their bathrooms, even when staying at budget hotels. At the very minimum they expect to find a bar of soap. At the other extreme, when staying at luxury properties, many guests expect luxury bathroom amenities, including shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, mouthwash, sewing kits, shower caps, vanity kits – even shoe shine
Why is this a growing problem?
The world has now reached a tipping point when it comes to plastic waste. Hotel bathroom amenities are in the firing line, as many guests question the damaging environmental aspect of their use and the waste created by the thousands of plastic bottles being used on a daily basis throughout the world.
Every day millions of bars of soap and bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash and moisturisers are used in hotels around the world. On average, each bar of soap and each bottle of liquid becomes waste when only 15 percent is used. These partially used toiletries are then scooped up by the cleaning staff, thrown into bin bags and sent off to landfill sites.
Research shows that up to 95% of the plastic used in your hotel room end up in landfill where they sit for hundreds of years. adding to the 20 million tonnes of garbage added to landfill in Australia alone. The top 300 hotel groups in the world alone dispose of an estimated 5.5 billion amenity bottles and caps every year.
More waste not only adds to the ever-growing problem of landfill, but it translates to higher garbage removal costs for the hotel and also makes it difficult for hotels to meet environmental standards that their guests are now coming to expect.
With shocking images circulating in recent years of beaches awash with plastic waste, many hotels are hearing the message and taken initiatives to reduce their use of polluting and wasteful material materials – in particular, plastic.
Plastic waste has wreaked havoc on tourist destinations around the world. Earlier this year, authorities in Bali, Indonesia, declared a “garbage emergency” because of the amount of plastic washing up on a nearly 4-mile stretch of beach on the island’s west coast.
“The visibility of plastic waste in our community is becoming much more prevalent, especially in the travel industry,” says Denise Naguib, vice president of sustainability and supplier diversity for Marriott International. “It’s much more visible not to the microscopic portion of the public paying attention to these things, but to everyday travellers.”
“The top 300 hotel groups in the world alone dispose of an estimated 5.5 billion amenity bottles and caps every year.”
Hoteliers have several choices if they want to provide their guests with more environmentally responsible bathroom amenities. Let’s look at the options for both hotels and guests – both of whom need to be involved if we are going to really tackle this problem effectively.
These options include dispenser pump packs; replacing old style bottles plastic bottles with bottles made with recycled plastics – and one company is now offering a goodie bag to encourage you to take your leftover items with you to use and then recycle responsibly.
1. Refillable Dispenser Bottles
In the past, bulk liquid dispensers have been associated with poor quality.
Not any more.
Many of the world’s hippest and luxurious hotels are integrating stylish design with beautiful organic liquids formulated with natural ingredients that are totally biodegradable and safe to the environment including shampoos, conditioners and body wash.
A number of top cosmetic brands throughout the world are now providing large-bottled versions of their amenities for use by hotels. This is a growing and welcome trend and many top international hotels and airlines are now going down this road.
Guests access their shampoo, conditioner and bath and shower gel from normal sized bottles similar to what might be used at home, but which are fitted with pump dispensers and fixed to the wall. There are no small bottles clogging up the bathroom counter and shower, and no partially used bars of soap or bottles of shampoo left to be sent to landfill.
Some hotels have also reported that many travellers find the wall-mounted pumps easier to use and guests find it usually much easer to read whether or the bottle contains shampoo and conditioner – a problem for many when trying to read in the shower without their glasses.
Other hotels report that guests overwhelmingly love the convenience of the guest bathroom liquid dispensers. Little bottles are often hard to open and bottles and caps can be messy.
When refilled hygienically, dispensers can provide exactly the same quality product at a fraction of the waste produced by single bottle use.
2. Take It With You
Now here’s an idea worth considering.
One company has recently introduced the “Goodie Bag” which encourages guests to take their partially used hair and body care amenities with them, finish them off and then recycle them responsibly.
What do you think? Do you like the idea of being encouraged to take the slightly-used hotel amenities with you, use the remainder of the product, and either re-use the bottles or dispose of them responsibly? Not only can this help to make sure that plastics are recycled, but also for the fact that it focuses attention on the need for guests themselves to part in solving the problem.
Find out more about the Goodie Bags here
To help avoid the amount of waste going into the landfill, some hotels may choose to donate leftover soaps and shampoos. Hotels then donate these unused products to companies that will sterilize and distribute them to homeless shelters, send them to other parts of the world to those that are in need of such amenities, or get converted into industrial cleaners.
Back 2 Base – a New Zealand company, has developed a soap recycling scheme whereby hotels can return partially used soaps and they’ll get them converted into Bio Diesel and biodegradable industrial cleaners.
Soap Aid is a not-for-profit organisation, based in Australia, committed to saving children’s lives through improved hygiene while positively impacting the environment. Their vision is to challenge the status quo and change the way discarded hotel soap is treated. Their humanitarian and environmental mission is made possible by their partnership with the hotel industry, who pay a small annual fee per room to keep the program afloat.
Soap Aid collects, sorts, cleans and reprocesses hotel soap into fresh, hygienic soap bars for distribution to targeted communities in Australia and around the world, where they work closely with local communities to provide vital hygiene education on the importance of handwashing with soap.
Through this amazing program, Soap Aid aims to achieve lifesaving and sustainable improvements in global hygiene practices. This is such a great initiative and it would be so good to see more hotels involved, as well as more information on a hotel’s website letting guests know that they are a Soap Aid partner. It could make the difference whether or not a guest chooses to stay.
4. Pay for What You Actually Need
Surprisingly, this option does not seem to be readily available. In many countries, consumers have learnt to pay for the plastic bags they use when shopping. On airlines, (like it or not) we are constantly finding that any little extras we may require come at a cost. We adjust and move on. And many guests happily pay outrageous prices for packets of peanuts and mini bottles of whisky.
Could this be one alternative offered by hotels? Apart from the necessities of soap, shampoo and maybe conditioner, could guests be encouraged to either purchase extras from reception as needed, or add them as options for sale to the minibar, along with nuts and chocolates?
5. Bring Your Own
In the end, do we really need to have little bottles in hotel bathrooms? Indeed most people I know prefer to use their own tried and tested brand of hair products when travelling and bring their own. And unless you are a frequent traveller to the same hotel or chain, you can’t be sure exactly what will be provided and so also tend to bring your own products in case.
So our recommendation? Take your own and it will be a win-win situation for you and the environment!
What Hotels Can Do
Hotels should at the minimum look at the biodegradable or recyclable nature of packaging. Look for hotel toiletries that come without excess packaging or, if they do, use a simple recyclable cardboard box. And if they are recyclable, there will need to be facilities provided to collect the bottles and packaging and treat them in the correct manner.
If hotels still insist on providing small use-once-and throw-away bottles, a number of companies are now offering products made with 100% post consumer recycled plastic. Some have been enhanced with a product called EcoPure, to enhance biodegradability.
The Products Inside
When choosing bathroom amenities for their guests, hotels can look for shampoos, conditioners, and body wash that may be:
– free of banned parabens
– free of banned phthalates,
– free of petroleum derived ingredients
– free of paraffin
– free of diethanolamine,
– free of mineral oil
– free of silicon.
– 100% biodegradable formulations;
– not tested on animals
What Guests Can Do
Let hotels know how much you appreciate their efforts to cut down on plastic waste. Add your thoughts to your next Trip Advisor review as well, so the hotel owner knows that you think their attitude to environmental waste is important. And if all else fails, and you find yourself faced with half used bottles, take them with you, use the rest of the product, refill and re-use them for next time.
UPDATE JULY 30 2019
Intercontinental Hotel Group to get rid of Mini Toiletries
InterContinental Hotels Group, with a portfolio that includes more than 5,600 hotels and nearly 843,000 rooms, has announced it will start offering toiletries in bulk-size dispensers at all its properties by 2021 in an effort to reduce plastic waste.
The company expects that to amount to about 200 million little bottles a year.
Chief executive Keith Barr said the decision came after an announcement last year to remove single-use plastic straws from its hotels by the end of 2019.
“But that’s just a baby step,” Barr says about the straws. “The next biggest thing we saw out there was single-use bathroom amenities.”
Brands include Holiday Inn, Kimpton, Six Senses, InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Staybridge Suites.
Do you have any ideas or comments about bathroom amenity products and the issue of plastic waste? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!
Author: Amanda Lambert, Green Getaways