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FILE - Plastic items washed up by the sea are seen at the Ao Phrao Beach, on the island of Ko Samet, Thailand, June 9, 2018.

2019-05-15


Five Asian countries - China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand - account for up to 60 percent of plastic waste leaking into the seas, an Ocean Conservancy study found.

"As both creators and 'victims' of waste, the hotel industry has a lot to gain by making efforts to control their own waste and helping their guests do the same," Ruffo said.

"We are seeing more and more resorts and chains start to take action, but there is a lot more to be done, particularly in the area of ensuring that hotel waste is properly collected and recycled," she added.

Changing Minds, Cutting Costs

Data on how much plastic is used by hotels and the hospitality industry is hard to find. But packaging accounts for up to 40 percent of an establishment's waste stream, according to a 2011 study by The Travel Foundation, a U.K.-based charity.

Water bottles, shampoo bottles, toothbrushes and even food delivered by room service all tend to use throw-away plastics.

In the past, the hospitality industry has looked at how to use less water and energy, said Von Hernandez, global coordinator at the "Break Free From Plastic" movement in Manila.

Now hotels are turning their attention to single-use plastics amid growing public awareness about damage to oceans.

"A lot of hotels are doing good work around plastics," adopting measures to eliminate or shrink their footprint, said Hernandez.

But hotels in Southeast Asia often have to contend with poor waste management and crumbling infrastructure.

"I've seen resorts in Bali that pay staff to rake the beach every morning to get rid of plastic, but then they either dig a hole, and bury it or burn it on the beach," said Ruffo. "Those are not effective solutions, and can lead to other issues."

Hotels should look at providing reusable water containers and refill stations, giving guests metal or bamboo drinking straws and bamboo toothbrushes, and replacing single-use soap and shampoo containers with refillable dispensers, experts said.

"Over time, this could actually lower their operational costs - it could give them savings," said Hernandez. "It could help change mindsets of people, so that when they go back to their usual lives, they have a little bit of education."

Back in Phuket, the hotel association is exploring ways to cut plastic waste further, and will host its first regional forum on environmental awareness next month.

The hope is that what the group has learned over the last two years can be implemented at other Southeast Asian resorts and across the wider community.

"If the 20,000 staff in our hotels go home and educate mum and dad about recycling or reusing, it's going to make a big difference," said Lark.


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