Four Key Areas of Waste Management in the Hotel Industry

A haven for road warriors, a temporary home for traveling families, a site for trade shows and conferences-hotels are all of these things and so much more. With hotel visitors coming from all over the map for all sorts of reasons, it’s important to keep your eye on your hospitality facilities waste output. For most people, waste is waste no matter the shape or size and, in the end, it all winds up in the dumpster. But for the smart hotel owner and operator, that’s not always the case. Working with a proper waste broker, knowing where your hotel waste comes from and identifying key areas to focus on can greatly increase your operational cleaning efficiencies while simultaneously reducing time and stress, and helping you save costs. While there is a myriad of facets to hotel waste management, here are four key areas of waste management that are worthy of immediate attention.

1.    The Guest Room

From the travelers and tourists hanging out in a brand-new location to the businessmen and women pitching clients far from the home office, when it comes to waste, the first key area to focus on is the guest room. Day in and day out, the constant rotation of guests leaves a new stash of trash and recyclables to be taken care of.

To manage the ever-present waste associated with the guest room, pay attention to the everyday occurrences. Start with the basics, like what’s being thrown away in the bedroom, bathroom and living area. It’s unlikely that what’s being disposed of in each room bears a striking resemblance to what’s being thrown out in the room next door. The same holds true for what’s being recycled. Most hotel rooms are set up in a similar fashion with amenities laid out for guests’ convenience. Knowing what’s typically left for cleaning after each departure allows you to make a game plan to clean each room in a similar fashion, creating a streamlined waste stream from the guest room.

Having a plan for how to handle the most obvious area of waste is a simple way to increase your waste management efficiencies while driving down costs. The less time you need to take care of the waste generated by each vacated room, the less money you’ll spend. The old adage that time is money holds a lot of weight in the world of waste. Work with a waste broker to create a streamlined process for handling waste versus recycling and, while you’re at it, make sure to take note of the costs of management. Different items such as used shampoo bottles or food scraps will cost various amounts to dispose of or recycle. If there’s a plan in place to consolidate these potentially pricey throwaways, you can rest assured you’re not wasting time and money with a clunky cleaning process.

One way to increase your guest-room efficiencies is to have a hotel recycling program. For example, certain waste brokers offer unique recycling programs that offer delivery and pickup of the recycled items, including reusing as many items as possible. These recycling boxes can be taken to the next level with your hotel amenities by partnering with nonprofits-such as Clean the World, that gives soap and hygiene education to people in need by recycling discarded soap bars and plastic bottles and Sealed Air’s Soap for Hope, a program that creates a way to reduce hotel waste by taking used soap bars and recycling them with specialized equipment creating cold-pressed fresh bars of soap to communities that need them most-that find alternative ways to reduce waste.

Finally, it’s important to keep an eye on the numbers game in the guest room. In the end it’s a numbers game that adds up quickly in the hotel operating industry. While your hotel may only have three conference rooms, their waste may not be a backbreaker, but inefficiency across 300 guest rooms can add up to a lot of headaches. By reviewing the ongoing reports from your waste broker, you’ll be able to evaluate key areas to find efficiencies and save costs. Working with a waste broker to monitor and evaluate key numbers-like amount of waste in the guest room, cleanup time and kinds of waste-can help you set baseline goals for waste management time and cost. By setting up benchmarks and constantly striving for a more efficient process, any hotel can create an optimal guest-room experience while keeping waste management costs low.

2.    Food and Beverage Spaces (i.e., Restaurant/Bar)

Partnering with a waste broker to continually evaluate your F&B waste practices is a key component of waste management in the hotel industry, but one that’s largely looked over. While the guest room may be the first area of waste to focus on, you can’t forget to analyze the area many guests find themselves frequenting throughout their stay: the hotel restaurant and bar area.

Most restaurant waste is, unfortunately, unavoidable-a cost of running a restaurant. However, there are a few key insights to decrease excess and get a handle on the unwanted scraps and leftovers.

Unlike the physical bottles and wrappers found in the guest rooms, hotel restaurants act as an entirely different kind of waste stream. Even with meals that are eaten completely, a clean plate doesn’t necessarily mean a clean slate in the waste world. Food waste in hotels comes from an assortment of sources. Some of the common culprits are spoiled and out-of-date food, peelings and trimmings, inedible byproducts (e.g., bones, tea leaves), errors in the kitchen and general plate waste.

The first thing is to figure out what your waste baseline is by measuring the amount that’s thrown out and discarded week over week. Keeping track of categories like preparation, spoilage and plate waste is a good place to start. Once that target baseline is nailed down, create a plan to reduce that number. Offering portion sizes, using prepared ingredients and adding unused food to creative menu items can go a long way to eliminate waste inefficiencies. To cap everything off, make sure to empower the staff to review these waste goals monthly and celebrate the successes.

Additionally, using a “smart” waste compactor from a waste broker can help you continually evaluate your F&B waste and save costs by avoiding unnecessary pickups when there may have been a lull in customer traffic or, on the flip side, have a pickup on demand when your hotel is experiencing a very busy time.

3.    Conference Rooms & Events Spaces

To many traveling guests, hotel conference rooms and event spaces are an afterthought. Beyond the really fun wedding reception, or engaging keynote speaker session, these venues don’t seem to hold much value for friends and family on the move. However, that’s only one side of the clientele perspective. For the local businesses holding a weekend seminar or a well-dressed bridal party in the middle of a wedding reception, you’ll find that the meeting rooms and event spaces are very important, and for hotel operators they are realm ripe for waste.

Similar to the origin stories of nearly every event, waste management for these gatherings requires planning. One of the best ways to eliminate unnecessary stress is by getting rid of waste before it even begins. To put it another way, plan for a low-waste event. Purchase reusable products with little to no packaging. For products with packaging, see if there’s a way to reuse what would otherwise be thrown out. Reusable utensils, plates and glasses help keep trash to a minimum before anything even begins. For everything else that will be disposed of by the area’s occupants, make signs reminding attendees to recycle using bins and containers for paper, glass and plastic.

Another proactive route to take with these event spaces is to use as little paper as possible. It’s not unusual to have an excess amount of printed materials. Items such as signs, posters, sticky notes, plates and printouts are common culprits that often add up to the overall waste footprint. Of course, you want to make your guests happy, but you can do this with electronic signage, to help reduce waste. Publicizing your efforts to go green lets potential clients know up front that proper waste management is a top-of-mind focus for your establishment. As with anything else, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Conference and event spaces in hotels can also create unusual types of waste that range in size and may not fit in a typical trash compactor. By working with a waste broker, your hotel staff can be fully prepared to work with your waste partner and find the best approach to have unique waste streams taken care of.


4.    Common Areas (e.g., lobby, pool, business center)

The final waste stream to focus on is a grab-bag of sorts. It’s a combination of the areas everyone uses day in and day out, but that no one spends a lot of time in. Common areas, including lobbies, pools, exercise rooms and business centers, are a source of waste that can really set your accommodations apart with a little bit of attention.

Starting outside and working your way in, the pool area is a potential breeding ground of issues due to poor waste planning. Keep ample waste receptacles around and have frequent evaluations of cleanliness. Monitoring waste around the water can save you from issues that could contaminate the water and harm your hotel’s guests.

For exercise rooms, having a water fountain can greatly reduce the number of plastic water bottles that are cast aside after being used. Encourage the use of stainless steel, aluminum or glass water bottles instead and replace paper towels with cleaning cloths.

Managing the output of waste in hotel lobbies relies on some principles we’ve already discussed. Similar to the conference rooms, reducing the amount of paper being used will help your bottom line, while having clearly labeled waste baskets will ease the burden of dealing with unorganized trash when it’s time to get rid of it. These lobbies often connect to eating areas, as well, where, avoiding the use of plastic silverware and plates comes back into play. Reusable liquid containers can also be employed for breakfast essentials, like water, milk and juice, as a substitute for single-use bottles and cartons.

As with anything, remember to run regularly scheduled waste audits in these areas. Work with your waste partner to review your smart compactor reports, evaluate where your internal team can improve or find efficiencies, and help save costs overall. Quantifying what’s being tossed puts a face to your problems in the form of hard numbers. By using that data, you can then implement a waste-saving system with set priorities and goals. Continue to evaluate and fine-tune your process for the best results.

While the prospect of waste management in the hotel industry is daunting, it doesn’t have to be an untamable task. By working hand-in-hand with your hotel waste broker and focusing your efforts on these key areas, you can find the insights you need to keep your operation running clean and smooth.

Reprinted from the Hotel Business Review with permission from