Zero Waste

Start your journey to zero waste with advice from the European Commission’s ‘Take a Green Step’ programme.

Zero waste blocksA milestone achievement for any environmental plan, moving to zero waste will show your guests you not only care about the impact of your glampsite, but you are also acting on it. It will also put you in the lead for environmental achievements – a great way to stand out from your competition. It sounds big and it sounds scary, but you can do it in baby steps and over time, rather than through a big cultural shift in your business.

What is zero waste?
Zero waste is about developing strategies and tools to not just manage waste, but avoid generating waste in the first place as much as possible. The most significant impact will be achieved by reducing the amount you send to landfill, with the ultimate goal to have none left. But every single step in that direction has a positive impact. By creating a circular economy around resources, rather than a linear one, we can all benefit from improved environmental outcomes.

Develop a waste inventory
The best place to start is to develop an inventory of waste across all areas of your operation. Common areas are housekeeping, catering, office, maintenance and facilities. Most waste in guest accommodation is generated in housekeeping and catering.

A thorough inventory will reveal all waste, particularly things you may not immediately think of, like the packaging on linen deliveries. It also makes sense to distinguish separately collected waste that will enter recycling streams and unsorted waste whose final fate will be disposal by incineration or landfill.

Start small
Once you have your inventory, you can start to look at ways you can reduce the amount of waste you create. It doesn’t need to be all at once – pick an area to begin with, like detergent packaging, and use your measurements for motivation. Your inventory will be your starting point for measuring changes to your waste – you need to know where you started to see how far you’ve come. Once you start seeing positive change, it’s easy to use the motivation from your success to build bigger successes.

Accommodation waste is usually varied, similar to household waste, with organic matter, glass, paper and cardboard, plastics and metals making up the bulk. An efficient waste management strategy, developed from your inventory, can reduce waste by over 50%.

Imagine… less waste means lower waste collection costs and a happier environment. Everyone wins! Moreover, this new focus on measuring your results can lead to better choices in purchasing. Pay attention to what you throw away – maybe you buy too much food and it goes off before it is eaten? Buying smaller amounts will also mean cost savings and will make achieving zero waste easier!

Mainstream inspiration
More and more hotels in mainstream hospitality of all sizes throughout Europe are working towards or within the goal of zero waste. The Conca Park is a 205 room hotel in Sorrento, Italy, which proudly advertises its zero waste achievement across its website. The management undertook a number of initiatives to reduce waste including replacing all single portion and disposable items, introducing water dispensers to reduce the use of bottled water and replacing a number of plastic items with recyclable or compostable materials. It has achieved over 80% recycled waste.

At a smaller scale, a 14 room hotel and restaurant in the UK, Strattons Hotel, recycles or reuses 98% of waste. In addition to the environmental and social benefits, this saves the business more than £1,000 each year in waste disposal costs.

Zero waste can seem like a daunting, even impossible task, so don’t let it discourage you. To help you get started on your journey, measuring yourself against others in the industry and try to achieve levels that the best performers are already reaching. The European Commission’s Best Environmental Management Practice in Tourism report (2013) offers a number of ‘benchmarks for excellence’ in relation to efficient waste management. These Benchmarks include:
• At least 84% of waste, by weight, recycled
• Unsorted waste sent for disposal less than 0.16kg per guest per night
• Total waste (sorted and unsorted) less than 0.6kg per guest per night.

Zero Waste recyclingReduce, reuse, sort, recycle
Reducing waste is easiest done by not creating it in the first place. Some easy strategies include:
• Look at replacing single serve toiletries and food packaging with refillable dispensers
• Monitor stock levels on perishable items to prevent over-ordering.
• Select suppliers who don’t use unnecessary packaging, or who provide a return service on packaging
• Replace plastic water bottles with refillable glass and tap or filtered water
• Reuse items within your business or forward them on for other uses
• Use refillable glass bottles for guest water.

Develop a process to sort all waste for collection, including paper and cardboard, aluminium cans, plastic packaging and glass bottles. Find out what other types of waste can be recycled in your region. If you have a restaurant, cooking oils may be recycled for producing biofuel. If food waste is not collected separately in your area, you can start composting it on site or find local partners who are already doing this and that may take your food waste too.

Making the change
Looking at the end results before you get there can make achieving zero waste appear a much bigger and more unmanageable process than it needs to be. Undertake an inventory, discover where the changes can be made, and work from there. You don’t need to do it all at once.

When you have your baseline waste inventory, make one easy change, such as replacing bottled water in disposable bottles by returnable bottles or tap water in reusable bottles. Monitor the changes to your waste patterns as they happen. Keep your staff informed and engaged with the process and the progress of the program. Then move to the next change. Perhaps replacing bins in accommodation with sorting bins. Then move to the next change…

Before you realise it, you’ll be knocking on the door of achieving zero waste and all the benefits this brings.


About the Author
Take A Green Step is brought to you by the European Commission’s directorate general for the environment, supported by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. For more advice, best practise and case studies, visit

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