In October 2019, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group pledged to eliminate all single-use plastic and a year on from the Group’s pledge, this second progress report highlights both the achievements made to date and some of the continuing challenges.
The company has committed to eliminating single-use plastic across all areas of its hotels, including rooms, spa, transport, restaurants and bars as well as in areas unseen by the guest, such as offices and kitchens.
The focus remains on the elimination of 60 of the most common single-use plastic items identified by hotels which are estimated to make up 95% of the total number of items. Many of these items have now either been eliminated or are in the process of being phased out as plastic stock is depleted. So far, the Group’s hotels have eliminated an average of 70% of the 60 most commonly used items, excluding supplier packaging, with steady progress across all departments.
Items that have been completely eliminated and replaced with eco-alternatives include cocktail sticks, straws, body scrubs, tasting spoons, plastic spatulas and takeaway bags. One of the most used items – plastic water bottles – has now been replaced by on-site filtered and bottled water at 12 hotels. Glass and aluminum bottled water will be the standard throughout the portfolio.
Hotels are adapting their operational practices as they incorporate these eco-friendly alternatives. Almost half of the Group’s portfolio have eliminated waste bags in guest rooms, adopting an empty-and-clean approach instead. Operational guidelines in F&B and Spa are also changing to incorporate new methods of sanitization, food preparation, cooking and product storage to decrease the need for single-use plastic.
Pilot tests to trial wall mounted dispensers to replace small plastic toiletry containers have been successfully completed and in most cases these are being installed in phases across the portfolio. Properties that are unable to mount dispensers will use recyclable aluminum amenity bottles instead. Hotels are working with luxury brands such as Diptyque to fill dispensers with chemical free product.
While the current scope of work has been widened, and good progress is being made, challenges remain. One of these, which was not included in the initial timeline, is single-use plastic packaging employed for goods being delivered into hotels which is difficult to influence. The Group is working to resolve this through ongoing supplier engagement, challenging vendors to come up with strategies to reduce the amount of plastic used in delivering goods. Hotels are also sourcing bulk packaged items where possible to limit plastic packing.
Within F&B, difficulty in sourcing single use plastic free and cost-efficient alternatives to vacuum bags used in sous-vide cooking and cling film to cover food produce has hindered progress. In addition, regulatory restrictions to on-site bottling of water in the Group’s China properties are proving an obstacle. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has also led to hotel closures and low occupancies, thereby slowing the depletion of existing stocks of plastic products.
While many organisations are using the pandemic as a reason to relax their focus on the elimination of single use non reusable plastics, we are not. Our “We Care” packages for guests include reusable fabric facemasks and are plastic free. The Group believes that hygiene and the highest sanitary standards can be maintained without single use non reusable plastics.
Colleagues from every hotel continue to focus on finding solutions to single use plastic. Mandarin Oriental is collaborating with its suppliers to drive responsible procurement and provide alternative products that are both viable and suitable for the luxury hotel environment.
“Whilst our ambitious timeline to eliminate all single-use plastic from our premises by the end of March 2021 may have to be adjusted as a consequence of the pandemic, we are making good progress,” said James Riley, Group Chief Executive. “I am proud that despite the current challenging conditions, our colleagues have wholly embraced this task to deliver on the Group’s sustainability responsibilities,” he added.
The Group will issue the next report on progress in March 2021.