When waste is an opportunity, rather than a problem
Waste management is an ever increasing aspect of tourism and still, very often, key actors in the tourism industry are faced with barriers to reducing waste. Those barriers are mainly due to a lack of information, time constraints, space and finance. Furthermore, waste management is still generally perceived as an additional burden, instead of a potential income generating resource.
Promoting waste reduction in hotels is an even harder job. Every hotel is an autonomous reality, dealing with different customers, green certificates, kind of services offered and quality standards. Waste reduction plans in hotels require a hotel culture shift, involving suppliers, guests and staff.
To understand more about waste reduction processes in hotels, BLUEISLANDS got in touch with Antonino Esposito, creator of Hotel Rifiuti Zero®, a project that is bringing a network of hotels situated in Sorrento, a famous Italian tourist destination, towards a zero waste strategy. Antonino agreed to answer to some of our questions.
Which are the main challenges you faced to introduce Zero Waste principles to hotels?
Hotel Rifiuti Zero aims to combine environmental sustainability with significant economic benefits. Hotels managers are widely sensitive to sustainability issues, but they have to deal with the cost of each action taken. The main challenge for introducing Hotel Rifiuti Zero in every hotel-client was to demonstrate that sustainable resource management goals are linked with:
- A more efficient management of the structure
- A real and solid environmental sustainability (which, Antonino whispers, sometimes is missing in certain eco-labels..)
- Substantial savings consisting in waste-tax discounts, lower consumption, less hours spent by hotel staff to collect waste
How do hotels in Hotel Rifiuti Zero network benefit from efforts in waste reduction?
Each hotel manager believes to be the owner of the best possible management system. They are generally highly surprised when we give them our feedback on their waste management processes.
Magic happens when we analyze in each structure the production and disposal of waste, water and energy consumption, the level of waste taxes, the workers’ modus operandi. Hotel managers realize how big those management improvement areas are, and therefore are encouraged to take the first steps in a Zero Waste direction.
Each structure has its own peculiar processes: therefore, every one of the solutions we propose its highly customized. The Hotel Rifiuti Zero team has the expertise and experience to identify these criticalities and to provide the necessary corrective measures. That's what we do!
Hotels benefits are real and tangible: improved quality of employees work, customers appreciate accommodation facilities which are concerned about their environmental footprint, savings on supplies and on waste taxes. The efforts required to apply a Hotel Rifiuti Zero strategy cost roughly the 30% of the overall savings.
Which are the main results oh Hotel Rifiuti Zero? How are tourists and local public administration perceiving your work?
First step our hotels are called to is a real waste hunt: all unnecessary packaging are identified, all single dose packs or mono use supplies of soaps and food are eliminated, and flow reducers are placed on every tap. Medium and long term investments are aimed to reduce energy consumption, with the replacement of less efficient components.
Staff training is a core part of Hotel Rifiuti Zero: they have to deal with new waste collection processes, and even more important, they have to inform customers about the new procedures. To help hotel staff onthese new duties, we provide them with panels containing relevant informations on strategic zero waste features in the facility. We tend to put a C beside the 4Rs of the Zero Waste philosophy (Recycle-Redesign-Reduce-Reuse), and that C stands for Communication!
Customers appreciate hotels that adopt good environmental practices. Their appreciation is proven by their active and enthusiastic participation: hotels applying Hotel Rifiuti Zero have recorded an increase of around 15% of attendance (and hence an increase in sales!). On the other hand, we noticed a significant increase in customer's positive reviews on social networks. Thus meaning, that environmental care is perceived by tourists as a quality feature.
Local administrations are demonstrating to appreciate this kind of initiative by giving strong discounts on waste tax. Local authorities are well aware that a better “green” reputation and lower waste management costs are benefits for the whole community. That’s what we work for: waste is no longer a problem, but an opportunity!