- Feb 27, 2023
- Circular Economy
How do we get where we want to be? In a sector like tourism, where people are the center of the business, both customers and employees play the most important role in reaching our goal.
We want to let you in for a behind the scenes look of how we got our hotels to be free of single-use plastics in 2020.
It all started with the straws. In 2017, we reviewed the number of straws that were purchased in 2016 and saw that globally, the company had purchased 28 million units of straws! We understood the impact of removing a single element could have on the oceans. It was a timid initiative at the beginning, which was difficult for both employees and customers to understand. In those years there was still very little talk about how bad single-use plastics were.
The client did not immediately perceive the negative impact of using straws. They were used to drinking their cocktail with a straw, and of course, how would they drink their mojito if not? Children felt the same way too, whenever they asked the waiter for a soda, he brought it to them with a straw, it made the drink complete as a complement to lemon and ice, and let’s not forget the slushies. It took a long time and a lot of patience to get the idea that plastic straws were bad to our clients. We understood the importance of educating the employees on why it was important that we stopped offering straws, that way they could communicate that information to the client. They learned that by not offering straws, it took away the possibility of the plastic ending up in the ocean and in turn avoided polluting and harming the animals that live there. Marketing the information to adults wasn’t enough, so our Animation team intervened and developed activities for children to educate and raise awareness on the damage plastics do to marine life. These efforts took coordination and dedication.
It was at that time, in late 2017, the Wave of Change (WoC) movement began being empowered. At the 2017 employee Christmas lunch, the Fluxá family laid out the blueprint for what WoC would be, and that to continue working towards protecting the oceans, straws would only be the beginning of our journey. The next step was to eliminate all single-use amenities from the rooms, and in just 12 months we managed to eliminate single-use plastics from all the rooms in hotels in Spain. With clear direction from leadership, our goal was coming together.
To begin eliminating single-use plastics from all of the hotel rooms, it required coordination across all departments. In early 2018, when arriving in an Iberostar hotel room, you were greeted with the following single-use plastics: soap, shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, cottons wrapped in plastic, toothpaste and toothbrush as well as laundry material.
It’s only been 3 years since then, and we seem to no longer remember what it was like having all of those plastic materials. In the beginning, there were hardly any suppliers that offered what we were looking for. We needed a product that is respectful to the environment, of high-quality and that comes in packaging according to our objective, to not generate any plastic waste.
The next step, once Brand and Purchasing decided what the new cosmetic products were going to be, was to inform and train the cleaning team. They had to adapt to new ways of working, and we had to set new protocols. When is the part changed for a new one? We cannot leave the customer without a product. How should it be placed? It is necessary to make sure that when placing the new bottles it is clear what the product is. The first dispensers had the description of the content in very small print, which made it difficult to read, especially since you cannot shower with your glasses on! Small details since then have been polished and improved. Where is each type of bottle placed? The product in the shower is not the same as in the sink, and what about the bathtubs? Plans were drawn up for each possible type of bathroom that we had to optimize space and ensure the clients were getting everything they paid for.
Another very relevant product that was eliminated were the plastic garbage bags in the rooms. Those were replaced by garbage bags made with potato starch, something that we now see in all supermarkets. At that time (3 years ago), however, there were hardly any suppliers or products, and what was available was expensive and of poor quality. Today the bags are much more resistant which facilitates the work of our room maids.
In order to implement the same process in all the hotels, coordination across hotel directors and especially the staff on the floor was essential. The process has been very comforting because we understand that under the umbrella of our Wave of Change movement, all of these changes have purpose and explanation. It has been a very comforting process, because thanks to having these changes promoted under our Wave of Change movement, everything has reason and a very logical explanation. Our goal is to protect our oceans, and the employees understand and support our efforts. The best thing is not only the great impact we can make with 32,632 rooms free of single-use plastics, but the 34,000 employees who work at Iberostar also take this new way of living into their homes.