Towards Plastic Free Hospitality: A Guide to Manage Plastic Waste at Small and Medium Hotels in Sri Lanka

Briefing Note
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The global hospitality industry is at a pivotal juncture, confronting a pervasive challenge — the menace of plastic pollution and marine litter. The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative (GTPI) notes that approximately 80 percent of all tourism activities occur in coastal areas, positioning the hotel industry as a significant contributor to the roughly eight million tonnes of plastic entering our oceans annually. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the cost of oceanic plastic pollution exceeds 7 billion euros (EUR). If current trends persist, the production and incineration of plastic waste are projected to contribute 10 to 13 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. 

Against the backdrop of increasing environmental awareness and the rapid expansion of the hospitality sector, small and medium-sized hotel operators in Sri Lanka stand at a unique crossroads. Hotel operators in Sri Lanka have the opportunity to substantially reduce their plastic footprint and waste while concurrently enhancing their brand image and improving operational efficiency. 

Acknowledging the global emphasis on sustainable tourism, the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) has launched the National Sustainable Tourism Certification (NSTC) scheme. Specifically designed for small and medium hotel operators, its primary objective is to safeguard Sri Lanka's unique natural and cultural heritage. The NSTC scheme plays a crucial role in Sri Lanka's commitment to achieving balance between environmental, socio-cultural, economic, and other impacts on the local community. 

This guide serves as a valuable resource for hoteliers, offering guidance through the intricate process of reducing plastic usage by adopting sustainable alternatives. It also provides insights into ensuring the Environmentally Sound Management (ESM) of plastic, especially for waste items that are difficult to eliminate. Tailored for small and medium hotel operators, this guide empowers them with essential knowledge and tools to transition towards sustainable practices and minimize plastic usage and waste generation. Embracing sustainability not only contributes to a cleaner environment and the protection of ecosystems, but also enhances the hotel's brand, attracts eco-conscious guests, and strategically reduces operational costs. 

The guide comprises seven sections. Following this brief introduction, Section 2 outlines the key principles and steps involved in managing plastic waste at hotels. Section 3 offers a straightforward guide to kick-start a sustainability journey by conducting a comprehensive plastic audit within hotels. This audit covers areas marked by excessive plastic usage, extending from guest rooms and restaurants to reception and back-of-house operations. Section 4 guides hotels in initiating the development of a customized Plastic Management Action Plan. This involves leveraging their unique capacities and resources, a process detailed further in this section. These action plans are pivotal for hotel operators, providing a structured approach to establish clear targets and measures for reducing plastic usage and effectively managing plastic waste. Section 5 underscores the importance of forming partnerships with staff, guests, and suppliers for the successful implementation of the plastic waste reduction action plan. Regularly monitoring and measuring the progress of plastic reduction initiatives, based on the developed action plan, is crucial, as outlined in Section 6. Finally, Section 7 concludes by identifying a range of supportive national activities and policies for small and medium hotel operators. These initiatives aim to assist them in their efforts to reduce plastic usage, promote sustainability, and contribute to a cleaner and more environmentally-friendly tourism sector.