In the era of green economy and green strategies, it has become imperative for businesses across sectors to adopt sustainable practices in order to reduce their carbon footprint. One of the most important aspects of running a sustainable business is having a robust waste management system in place that focuses on the 3Rs, i.e. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. If we focus our attention, particularly on the Hotel Industry, it is a continuously booming industry and is one of the biggest contributors to the tremendous growth of the GDP of the country.
Consequently, they are also one of the chief consumers of the resources, and this widespread growth and consumption by the industry has contributed significantly towards waste generation, thereby posing a major challenge to environmental sustainability. In this article, we will delve into the cost and benefit analysis for the hotels to have proper and effective waste management systems in place and see what are the effective methods of waste management in the hotel industry.
For effective and proper waste management in the hotel industry, it becomes imperative to understand and categorise the waste generated in the hotels so that the same can be disposed of accordingly. This waste can be broadly categorised into the following:
Food Waste is one of the significant problems faced by the hotel industry. According to a report published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), titled the Food Waste Index Report of 2021, India generates about 68.7 million tons of food waste per year, out of which 11.9 million tons come from the food service sector.
It is not only a huge waste of resources but is also ethically and morally wrong, given the poverty index of the nation. In a country where a significant percentage of people are unable to afford three meals a day, food waste is indeed one of the largest concerns that needs to be prioritised.
The next category of waste that can be a huge environmental and health concern is the plastic waste generated by the hotel industry. Plastic use has increased exponentially over the years; from being used in disposables such as glass, straws, etc., on a daily basis to being used in packaging, it has become an uncontrollable menace.
According to a research paper published by the Journal of Emerging Technologies and Innovative Research, plastic waste comprises of 22% of the total waste generated by hotels. Due to a lack of proper knowledge and lack of resources, this plastic waste can be seen lying around in landfills, whereas a major chunk of this can be reused or recycled.
Hotel operations involve the discharge of liquid waste, sullage, and sewage, the treatment of which can be one of the biggest challenges, and the failure to manage the same can lead to environmental and health hazards. This kind of waste can be seen to be generated from various departments of the hotel industry, such as kitchen, housekeeping, lodging, etc., and to treat the same requires knowledge of the constituents of the liquid so discharged.
Amongst all kinds of waste, these are the major categories of waste generated in the hotel industry, some of which can be recycled, and some need proper disposal as improper waste management in the hotel industry can lead to adverse environmental and health impacts. In addition to that, it can even attract legal consequences if the businesses fail to discharge their legal obligations qua waste management.
Waste Management in the hotel industry is the most underrated technique to be adopted by any commercial business due to the lack of awareness and difficulty in understanding its significance. In fact, waste management helps a hotel business to have an effective supply chain in place, improve procurement and ordering of resources, reduce waste material, and eventually save money.
With an exponential increase in the number of travellers, especially over the last decade, it is only wise that the hotel industry takes advantage of the emerging practices and technologies to make their operations not only environmentally friendly but also take effective measures to achieve greater efficiency and sustainability.
Some of the key reasons that highlight the significance of proper waste management in the hotel industry are:
As discussed, the hotel industry generates a significant amount of waste, thereby leaving a large carbon footprint on the environment. In light of these adverse effects, various laws, rules, and regulations have been introduced and implemented, such as The Environmental Protection Act of 1986, The Solid Waste Management Rules of 2016, The Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management and Transboundary Movement) Rules of 2016, etc. with an overall objective of minimising the environmental damage and reduction in pollution by employing effective and proper waste disposal methods. These regulations are incentivising enough for businesses to take measures to mitigate environmental concerns by adopting effective methods for waste management in the hotel industry.
Hotel businesses are one of the biggest consumers of natural resources such as energy, water, and other raw materials, and effective waste management in the hotel industry necessitates employing techniques of reduction, reuse, and recycling that contribute towards the conservation of resources and their effective utilisation and ultimately lead to lesser waste generation.
Another benefit for businesses to undertake effective methods of waste management in the hotel industry is that it can reduce the overall disposal costs. By employing the techniques of reducing, reusing, and recycling, businesses can save a lot of extra costs invested in external waste vendor services or other informal methods.
Having a systematic system of waste management in the hotel industry for your business streamlines the entire process and makes it even more seamless, allowing you to pay attention to other core operations. This will further allow you to trim all the unnecessary costs and fees involved and can be extremely time-saving.
In order to prevent environmental pollution and promote sustainable development, the government has implemented various waste management rules and regulations at various levels that businesses must adhere to. Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEF) and other concerned authorities such as the Central Pollution Control Board and State Pollution Control Boards have been specially assigned the task to oversee the effective management of these rules, and in pursuance of the same, these bodies grant or cancel licenses and permits accordingly.
In addition to that, failure to comply with these rules and regulations may attract fines, other pecuniary penalties, and legal complications; therefore, it is only wise to take effective measures and comply with these regulations to avoid unwanted future costs.
Adopting sustainable practices has become the norm now. In the era of increasing environmental and social awareness, consumers are more likely to support those businesses that hold these values and demonstrate sustainability, which includes responsible waste management. Eco-conscious stakeholders and customers want to be associated with such businesses that prioritise these values rather than merely indulging in greenwashing.
The menace of waste generated in the hotel industry is so widespread and can be so complex that it becomes quite difficult for the stakeholders and businesses involved in the industry to effectively manage this waste. The inability to do so keeps on complicating the problem, and thus, the heaps of garbage and waste keep getting taller.
However, in order to implement effective waste management techniques, it is imperative to understand the problems and challenges faced by businesses in waste management in the hotel industry in order to understand the ground realities. Some of these are:
The main reason for ineffective waste management in the hotel industry is the failure to sort waste, and one of the major reasons for that is the lack of awareness and failure to understand the importance of sorting the waste as per their categories. Hotel businesses often have various kinds of waste to handle, and failure to sort them appropriately can lead to contamination and increased costs.
There is an apparent lack of appropriate infrastructure for proper collection, transportation, and disposal of various categories of waste. Businesses often find it logistically challenging to manage such huge quantities of waste on their own without any expert guidance, which leads to improper waste management in the hotel industry.
Different states or regions sometimes tend to have different regulations and standards for waste management. With limited resources and limited knowledge of the applicable rules, enforcement of these regulations can be quite challenging for effective waste management in the hotel industry.
Lack of cooperation from the guests can be yet another challenge for waste management in the hotel industry. Deep-rooted consumer behaviours of tossing the waste aside without sparing a second thought regarding whether the same can be reused or recycled can be a hindrance. Encouraging guests to participate in waste management can be challenging.
Many researchers have established that around 65% of the waste generated in the hotel industry can be reused or recycled, and we have stressed the need for effective waste management in the hotel industry and also briefly thrown some light on the challenges faced while achieving the objective, let us now have a look at some of the effective methods that can be employed to achieve proper waste management in the hotel industry. Some of these methods and techniques are:
Running a hotel leads to the generation of all kinds of waste, such as solid waste, food waste, plastic waste, etc., and one of the foundational steps of any system of waste management in the hotel industry is the categorisation of waste so generated. Therefore, it becomes imperative for the concerned businesses to categorise the waste and quantity of the waste produced in different departments of the hotel by using colour-coded dustbins in order to make the segregation process easier and hassle-free.
Waste Hierarchy is a concept used in the evaluation of processes as it indicates an order of preference for action to manage waste. It was essentially introduced to replace the age-old concept of 3Rs and make it a 5-step process instead.
As illustrated in the diagram, in the process of waste management in the hotel industry, the preference is to be given to waste prevention, which is essentially not allowing waste to be created in the first place, and at the bottom is disposal, i.e. when you have exhausted all the subsequent processes, disposal of waste in landfills or by incineration should be the last and the least preferred option.
Another essential step involved in proper waste management in the hotel industry is analysis of the data analysis, which is essential to quantify the waste generated. The major tools employed in analysing data are:
One of the most common ways to analyse data qua waste generated in the hotel industry is by performing a Waste Audit. It is a systematic and structured process employed in quantifying the amount and type of waste being generated by your business unit. This allows you an opportunity to assess your current waste generated by the management system, detect loopholes, if any, and improve the same.
If unable to handle it yourself, one can hire waste auditors, who visit your unit and physically go through your garbage, sort it, and eventually weigh it to quantify the different categories of waste generated by you. This allows you to gather specific data for reporting, evaluating the effectiveness of waste management in the hotel industry, saving money on waste costs, and meeting any environmental, social, or legal standards.
WARM stands for Waste Reduction Model, which is commonly used to evaluate the greenhouse gas emissions reduction, energy savings, and economic impacts of various waste management practices.
Apart from the usual forms of waste generated in the hotel, gaseous waste is also one of the concerns that needs to be addressed, as the same can have an adverse environmental and health impact. Thus, to manage that, the Equivalency Calculator can be utilised as it is a tool developed to show the optimum level of utilisation of greenhouse gas emissions and is used in various sectors.
In simpler terms, cost-benefit analysis is a method employed to measure the benefits of a decision. This technique allows business units to show the benefit and potential of waste management in the hotel industry and its positive effects on the environment as well as the business, which further helps in making well-informed decisions.
A model framework can be developed to save costs on local vendors and labourers for waste management in the hotel industry. It is a holistic structure that focuses on the profitability of the business and draws attention to the methods and techniques that can help achieve long-term sustainability and economic viability. It can be further classified into:
As discussed earlier, food waste generated is one of the highest concerns in the hotel industry, and it needs to be mitigated. This concern needs added attention, as the same is not only ethically and morally wrong given the number of people who can’t afford three meals a day, even from a commercial point of view, but also leads to a lot of resources being wasted and only contributes to an added cost.
Hotel businesses can make conscious efforts to conduct food waste audits by tracking the amount of food being wasted, having proper inventories in place depending on the headcount of your business, promoting portion control, creating awareness amongst the staff and customers to avoid wasting and leaving food in their plates, especially at hotels with buffets, training the hotel personnel with food waste management skills, having effective leftover plans and if despite this the food waste is being generated then having proper composting methods available to compost this waste and you can always start food distribution drives for the poor with the leftover food, which will not only serve your altruistic needs but also help you enhance your brand reputation.
Technology can be used to play a significant role in waste management. The hotel industry can introduce and use more tech-based solutions to mitigate these concerns, like the use of E-waste kiosks to discard E-waste or the use of applications and software that give you the necessary information, such as nearby recycling centres.
High-end technology that is employed in some countries and which has also been introduced in our country now can also be considered to monitor waste generation and analyse data. Using the Internet of Things (IoT) for employing smart bins is one such option, as it allows better and real-time data collection and cuts down many other routine procedures that are usually done manually. In fact, you can also have your old containers modified with these smart censors to make the entire process of waste management even more seamless. These sensors can monitor when these bins get filled to their capacity and can help keep track of the quantity of the waste generated, thereby improving the waste management logistics.
Waste Management in the hotel industry is of paramount importance for several reasons, ranging from environmental to economic sustainability, and hence, developing a holistic approach and having model frameworks in place is not only essential from the environmental point of view but also from the legal and economic point of view.
The world is getting environmentally and socially conscious with the passage of time, and upholding these values can be extremely advantageous for your businesses to attract loyal customers who hold these values in high regard. By adopting these methods, you can not only discharge your ethical and legal obligations but can also gain an added competitive advantage in the market against your counterparts who mainly indulge in ‘greenwashing’ their operations without making an actual difference.
If you are still confused about how to tread on this path of waste management in the hotel industry, you may seek expert guidance or hire professionals who can help you strike these two birds with a single stone.
Recycling and composting are often considered the most effective methods of waste management.
The key components of waste management are gathering of waste, storage, collection of waste, transportation, and then effective disposal.
The types of waste in hotels can comprise of plastic waste, food waste, water waste from toilets, kitchens & laundries, other solid waste, packaging waste from cleaning and packaging food, glass waste, general non-recyclable waste, textile waste, etc.
According to the various research conducted and statistics available, food waste accounts for more than half of the total waste generated in hotel operations.
According to a report published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), titled the Food Waste Index Report of 2021, India generates about 68.7 million tons of food waste per year, out of which 11.9 million tons come from the food service sector.
The most common four types of waste management are Landfills, Recycling, incineration and Composting.
The most common four types of waste can be broadly classified as solid waste, liquid waste, gaseous waste and hazardous waste.
The five waste management techniques popularly known as 5Rs are Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose and Recycle.
Read our Article: Methods Involved In Plastic Waste Management