With environmental discussions becoming more and more prominent, the travel industry has made efforts towards becoming better for the planet. In October 2019, The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group pledged to eliminate all single-use plastic, across its portfolio of 33 luxury hotels, by the end of March 2021.
A year on from the Group’s pledge, the company has shared some achievements made after committing 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.
Eco-alternatives include cocktail sticks, straws, body scrubs, tasting spoons, plastic spatulas and takeaway bags. One of the most used items, which are plastic water bottles, has now been replaced by on-site filtered and bottled water at 12 hotels.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.
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.
Wall Mounted Dispensers
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.
Plastic-Free Care packages during Covid
Mandarin Oriental’s “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.
Mandarin Oriental’s Sustainability Objectives
Mandarin Oriental is well recognized for delivering service excellence across its portfolio of luxury hotels and for operating its hotels and residences in a responsible and sustainable way. As a supporter of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the Group is committed to contributing to the communities in which it operates and responsibly managing its environmental impact and social commitment.