Let’s face it: straws, cotton buds, plastic cutlery and more single-use products will be banned by 2021, according to European Commission regulations. Does this mean the end of these products? Not at all: for everything there are sustainable alternatives, as the hotel sector well knows, which is already mobilising to reduce its impact on the environment. The change of mentality, of course, is down to everyone.
About eight million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean each year, and at this rate in a decade this amount could triple. Plastic pollution affects not only the seas and the marine life in them, but also the food chain and our health in particular.
In an attempt to put a stop to this serious situation, the European Commission’s regulations that enter into force in January 2021 affect the single-use plastic products most frequently found on Europe’s beaches and seas: cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and balloon sticks that must be made exclusively from sustainable materials. Did you know a simple plastic straw will never completely decompose? In addition, Member States will be obliged to collect 90% of single-use plastic beverage bottles by 2025.
Large hotel chains are already anticipating European regulations. In 2018, Iberostar was the first Spanish hotel company to eliminate single-use plastics from its hotel rooms. By 2020, it will have eliminated them completely, just like Grupo Piñero. Meliá, Vincci and Paradores have announced the elimination this year of all single-use plastic products, and Marriott will do the same; Riu has already switched to biodegradable straws… And so on and so forth.
The declaration of intentions is one thing; to do so is quite another, and rather more complicated. Have you ever thought about the amount of single-use plastics that can be found in a hotel room? From water bottles to amenities; from pens to laundry bags; from minibar containers to shoe bags… And outside the rooms, all the single-use household goods found on terraces and swimming pools, straws, stirrers, single-use containers… But for everything there are sustainable alternatives.
Edible, biodegradable and glass straws
Determined to say goodbye to plastic straws? Three years ago the startup Sorbos set itself a very “eco” objective: to replace them with edible and biodegradable ones. Today their product, the first edible straw on the market is available in many countries, and in 8 flavours. Advantages? It leaves no residue, is 100% biodegradable and can withstand high temperatures. And all this at a lower cost than plastic straws.
For its part, Klimer offers biodegradable corn starch straws, cardboard straws in cheerful colours, and also straws made from borosilicate, an unbreakable crystal that can withstand extreme temperatures, with a polished finish for a very soft feel in the mouth. Koala also sells reusable straws in clear glass, stainless steel and bamboo, all with their own cleaning brush. And the young startup Packawin makes them in bamboo, reusable and recyclable, along with their corresponding cleaner.
The Amenities Revolution
The Care About Earth programme from one of the big names in the amenities sector, Groupe GM, is a clear example of how this industry seeks alternatives to plastics, with packaging made from sugar cane waste, recycled plastic packaging, recycled paper and cardboard packaging, recyclable paper and stone paper.
The focus of dispensers is on small bottles, especially in establishments with more of an ecological conscience. The Ecopump system uses five times less plastic than the 30 ml bottles, while the airless Ecosource system uses 25 times less plastic.
But the latest in amenities are the solid formulas: shampoo, shower gel and conditioner in tablet format, without plastic, which already involve considerable water savings in manufacturing and also last longer than in liquid format. For example, the 20 g solid shampoo has about 30 uses, while a 20 ml liquid shampoo has about 3 uses.
In the welcome products accessories, there are interesting alternatives to plastic: cotton buds with paper handles, reusable and compostable paper cups, cocktail sticks and toothpicks made from bamboo wood, bamboo and wooden toothbrush, bamboo slippers, vegan bags…
Dishes, disposable and eco
What about dishes? In disposable packaging stores for the catering industry such as Muñoz Bosch or Klimer you can find dishes made from bagasse (sugar cane waste): bowls, plates, salad bowls, hamburger packaging…; as well as wooden containers, trays and cutlery; cups and cutlery made from PLA (corn starch), with the same characteristics as plastic, containers and utensils made from bamboo, resistant to grease and suitable for microwaves, containers made from cardboard, paper and kraft paper… The options are very varied.
But disposable household goods can be 100% compostable, ecological and not disregard design. This is precisely why Chikio, the new crockery from Cookplay, is perfect for events, meetings and celebrations. It consists of six pieces achieving an impeccable and very current look in catering and events.
Water, from the mains and in glass form
To remove plastics, nothing will compare to definitively removing bottles. The use of filtration systems such as that of the company AguaKmCero, which provides water from the microfiltered network and instantly cooled and which is served through a dispenser in glass bottles or jars, is spreading like wildfire in the catering industry. A water of proximity, that avoids transportation with the consequent reduction of CO2, and a real alternative to bottled water, without plastics, with zero residues and zero storage.
Textiles, made of recycled plastic
If you can’t handle it, recycle it: recycled plastic is an interesting textile raw material. Iberostar has already replaced traditional polyester uniforms with a 100% recycled plastic material. And textile companies do the same. Vayoil has just announced that it is now manufacturing all its duvets with polyester fibre filling from plastic bottles recovered from the sea. It’s part of their sustainable bed concept: with 35 recycled bottles you develop a pillow, and with 55 a fleece blanket.
Resuinsa, in the The Right Textile project by its sister firm Carmela Martí, uses polyester fibre from plastic bottles and containers found in the sea to create cushions, plaids, bedspreads, covers, tablecloths, etc. In addition, Resuinsa is reducing the use of plastics by 60% thanks to a new packaging system for its products.
What if we eat the container?
Replacing plastic is fine, but nothing compares to making the container disappear completely. The revolutionary Ooho is an interesting alternative to plastic: edible and biodegradable, it is perfect for containing water, drinks and sauces in single doses. It is made from the innovative material Notpla, made from algae and plants. Light, practical and effective, it couldn’t be more echo: if you don’t eat it directly, it degrades in six weeks.