In an effort to further reduce plastic waste, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) announced in late July that it would eliminate miniature bathroom amenities across its 17 hotel brands by 2021, replacing them with more sustainable, bulk-sized options. With the move, U.K.-based IHG becomes the first global hotel group to ensure that all of its brands remove mini plastic toiletries.
Each year, IHG averages 200 million mini toiletries across its nearly 843,000 guest rooms, which span some 5,600 hotels. Already, some brands in the hotel group’s portfolio have switched to bulk-sized amenities: Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas eliminated mini toiletries in the bathroom and replaced them with refillable ceramic dispensers across all of its properties, such as Soneva Fushi in the Maldives, while the company’s Even Hotels and Avid Hotels brands have offered them since launching. Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, according to a release from IHG, is “already moving” to these larger amenities and phasing out the mini plastic bottles.
In addition to benefiting Mother Earth, it’s also more cost-effective for hotels to have bulk dispensers rather than individual, sample-size containers, reports the New York Times. IHG isn’t the only travel company to ditch miniature plastic toiletries: In 2018, Marriott International began swapping out small toiletry bottles with in-shower dispensers at 1,500 North American hotels, which enabled it to eliminate 35 million plastic bottles a year. Lindblad Expeditions, a luxury cruise line, has gotten rid of single-use plastics across its ships, replacing tiny toiletries with refillable dispensers for soap and shampoo.
Will more companies make the switch? On the heels of the plastic straw ban, which saw companies like IHG and destinations like Miami vow to eliminate single-use plastic straws, it’s likely: As Jessica Colley Clarke found for AFAR, each year we discard more than 30 million tons of plastic a year in the United States alone, and only a dismal 8 percent of that is recycled—the rest goes to landfills or, even worse, oceans.
It’s not just large companies that can make a difference. If you’re traveling, buy and bring along a refillable water bottle, as well as your own toiletries in reusable containers. Kathryn Kellogg, founder of the website Going Zero Waste, calls these elements part of a “zero-waste travel kit,” which helps you avoid accumulating waste on the road.