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At the close of 2012, official figures published by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the UK showed that for the first time ever more rubbish is being recycled than going to landfill. The increase in recycling has been attributed to a combination of factors, mostly relating to changes made by councils - offering more facilities for recycling products like food waste and reducing the frequency of general waste collections. However, the increased engagement of businesses, including hotels, has also played a large part in these statistics. Raised taxes on waste going to landfill have made it essential for large hotel chains to address and increase their recycling policies. Whitbread, owner of Premier Inn and Costa Coffee, has already diverted 83% of waste from landfill, and aims to be waste neutral by 2017.
In the U.S., the numbers aren't looking as positive. According to the Environment Protection Agency, in 2010 (the most recent statistics) Americans generated 250 million tons of rubbish and recycled and composted over 85 million tons of this material. This is the equivalent to a 34.1% recycling rate. However, trend analysts are optimistic that recycling is still gaining momentum. Increasing numbers of specialist recycling agencies and proven economic benefits are providing the necessary platforms and incentives for businesses. Greenstar Recycling points out that recycling is now responsible for 850,000 U.S. jobs and $86 billion in gross annual sales.
When it comes to the hotel industry, one of the key components of a successful recycling campaign is staff engagement. Creating competitions, nominating a recycling champion and setting up dedicated training sessions are favoured by most large hotel chains, who recognise that targets can only be achieved with the buy-in of those on the ground.
In 2012 the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina achieved Zero Waste status (classified as a 90% diversion rate) by composting all food waste and turning to a waste management company to sort their waste, rather than relying on guests. The Manager of the hotel later said that employee engagement was key, citing that bringing the composting company in to speak with staff raised levels of excitement and commitment.
In October the Four Seasons Austin kicked off a two year plan to also become a Zero Waste Hotel. Made possible due to a partnership with Texas Disposal Systems (TDS) – the only facility in the US to handle all three components of waste (recycling, composting and landfill) – the new program aims to increase the Hotel’s waste diversion rate from less than 10% to 90%. In addition to buy-in from the Hotel’s 400+ employees, many of whom personally toured TDS’ Materials Recovery and Compost Facility last month, part of the success of the program will rely on guest participation.
If you're thinking about increasing your hotel's recycling efforts in 2013 then the following information is a great starting point. Created by Greenstar, one of the US's largest recycling companies, this infographic provides the 'Top 10 ways to increase employee engagement in recycling':