How to Reduce Plastic Pollution From Hotels
By Gina Allen
You visit a hotel for a much-needed vacation. You sit back, drink water from the bottles they provide— the $5 ones—without having to leave the comfort of your room.
You finish it, throw it in the trash, and grab another on the way out the door for your sightseeing excursion. Ahhh— so refreshing in that Arizona heat. You find a trash can on the street before entering the tour bus and the cycle continues…
Plastic. Everywhere you turn there’s this man-made material called plastic. More specifically microplastics. Which are so small that cosmetic and toothpaste industries sneak them into their products. Fun right?
For our waterways and oceans, it’s not.
In this blog, we’ll take a look into where microplastics come from and how they affect our oceans. And most importantly, we’ll cover how you can reduce your plastic use in the hotel industry.
Where Do Microplastics Come From Exactly?
According to the National Ocean Service, microplastics are less than 5 millimeters long. They’re broken down from larger plastics or made small for items like cosmetics and other household materials.
Being so small, they easily pass through filtration systems and end up in our lakes and oceans. Yes, the ones you swim in and take your children to.
You can see how this might be a problem.
A study by the World Health Organization found microplastics in drinking water and food. According to National Ocean Services, more research is needed to determine the effects these microplastics have on our health and our Ocean’s health.
Another study by Frontiers in Marine Science went out to see how much microplastics are in our oceans. And what did they find?
There are over 14 million tons of microplastic sitting on the ocean floor!
This is the equivalent to over 30 billion pounds and an estimated 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of the ocean.
Annnnd, if nothing is done by 5 years’ time…microplastics could increase by 80 million metric tons, a stat found by Scientific Reports. It’s okay, you can gasp here. I did.
There are two types of microplastics:
Primary microplastics: these plastics are created tiny to fit in items like detergents and cosmetics, explains National Geographic (NG).
Secondary microplastics: these are the result of larger plastics like Tupperware or bottles that break down over time. Single-use plastics, like straws, are the biggest enemies to microplastics in our oceans, says NG.
Most microplastics in oceans come from these 3 items:
- Synthetic textiles: The International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that 35% of microplastics came from synthetic textiles— i.e. your clothes! When you wash your clothes, the cheap material used to make them (which is plastic) breaks down and goes down the drain, ending up in our oceans.
- Tires: The second-largest microplastic villain is tires— producing 28%. The IUCN estimated that Americans’ tires produce 1.8 million tons of microplastic every year.
- City dust: The third-largest is city dust making up 24% of microplastic. This comes from buildings, household items like detergents, or materials in clothing.
National Geographic also explains that plastics take hundreds, even thousands of years to break down, unlike natural materials that are biodegradable. You might realize by now the severity of this if we’re continually creating plastic and it has nowhere to go.
What Are Microplastics Doing to Our Oceans and Wildlife?
Scientists don’t know how microplastics affect humans long-term, but the effect on wildlife proves there’s a problem with our plastic usage.
A study from Plymouth Marine Laboratory found that microplastics caused things like decreased eating, and lack of growth in fish and plankton as well as behavioral changes. Our food chain gets disturbed because of this.
Another study published on Scientific Reports states you and I eat around 240 marine organisms that had microplastics in their stomachs. So, even though the effects aren’t fully known, if you enjoy seafood, you’re probably eating microplastics.
A little plastic in your diet can’t hurt, right? Let’s think that one through.
The Hotel Industry and Plastic Pollution
America has a lot of hotels—roughly 81,000. And that’s just America.
Each hotel has about 75-300 rooms in each—with most of those hotels not practicing recycling or any other methods of reducing pollution.
Can you guess how much waste these hotels produce in a given year? About 200 gallons per room per month says Wastecare Corporation. Let’s look at some specifics of what hotels provide to their guests that are increasing plastic pollution. And how you can change your habits when you stay at a hotel to reduce plastic pollution.
These plastics are, as you probably guessed, something you use one time and then throw away. Hotels are saturated with these kinds of plastics because of their convenience to the customer. Things like…
- Bottled shampoo and conditioner
- Toothbrushes and toothpaste
- Drinks the rooms provide and straws
- Shower caps
- Food through room service or on sight restaurant
If every room has multiples of these items, with hundreds of rooms and thousands of guests each year, it’s a no-brainer why hotels have a high waste count. The good news is 50-60% of a hotel’s waste is recyclable, says Wastecare Corporation.
Suggestions in Helping You Reduce Plastic Pollution from Hotels
Every little decision you make towards using less single-use plastic is one less plastic floating around in our oceans. Can you imagine if we all did this?
For hotel guests…
- Bring your own hygiene items, instead of using the bottles they provide.
- Have a refillable water bottle to fill at water fountains or the tap.
- Carry a set of silverware where ever you go so you’re not tempted to use plastic forks and spoons.
- Talk to hotel management about a recycling plan.
- Find hotels that are certified through the Green Key Eco-Rating Program to know you’re staying in a hotel that cares about this kind of stuff.
For hotel owners…
- Place different items in rooms like bamboo utensils, or glass refillable bottles for soaps.
- Use bedsheets and detergents made with natural fibers. This limits the number of microplastics ending up in our filtration systems and our oceans as you wash them.
- Recycle cardboard, paper, plastics, and cans. This is simple to do by having designated bins for each.
- Think about becoming certified through the Green Key Eco-Rating Program, going back to all of the items listed above.
See… there’s so much you can do. It might not feel like a lot, but it sure does add up! From hotel guest to hotel owner, you can feel good about reducing plastic pollution with these small steps.
You Are the Solution. Don’t Miss Your Opportunity to Make a Difference.
You can see that microplastics are everywhere and are continuing to pile up with nowhere to go except our oceans… polluting the Earth. But you can make small changes that lead to big results.
It starts with daily habits of switching our single-use plastics for reusable items. Recycling properly. Educating yourself on plastic pollution. And being a part of cleaning up our oceans.
Ocean Blue Project is the perfect place to start learning about plastics and how they’re a huge deal for our oceans and aquatic life— and take action!
Once you know how plastics are detrimental to our oceans, you won’t want to look away.
Volunteering your time to clean up the ocean is one of the biggest impacts you can have. Sign up here to join a clean-up or create your own.
You can also stay informed by checking out Ocean Blue Project’s blog to learn about topics like this one. Stay up to date on the plastic problem and how you can create change where you live.
Author Bio: Hi, I’m Gina Allen– a freelance copywriter for the parenting industry living in West, Texas. I stay at home with my two toddlers and we love being outside and looking for ways to keep our Earth beautiful.