Recycling in the Hospitality Industry


Hospitality Recycling

Hotels, restaurants or pubs have some unavoidable waste streams, ranging from food waste to rubbish left behind by hotel guests and other customers. There are steps you can take, however, to ensure you give customers and staff everything they need to minimise landfill waste and maximise recycling. 

Waste legislation in the hospitality sector

As a business operator, you must fulfil the same Duty of Care to handle waste correctly that applies to industrial, manufacturing and office-based businesses alike. 

This means any waste generated must be stored appropriately and in a way that ensures the safety of humans on the premises. 

In hospitality of course, you may be more likely to have members of the public on-site as customers and even as overnight guests,making it even more important to make sure you meet this Duty of Care in full. 

Your waste disposal strategy should ensure that you: 

  • Store waste in a safe and secure way
  • Accurately describe the waste you produce
  • Keep certain types of waste segregated – especially hazardous substances
  • Use registered waste carriers to remove it from your premises
  • Obtain waste transfer notes and maintain sufficient records.


Waste produced by hospitality businesses

Hospitality businesses produce a wide variety of waste, the majority of which is decided by the sector you are operating in. For example, the majority of waste from pubs will be glass bottles, while restaurants will mostly produce food waste. 

Other common types of waste produced in the hospitality industry are: 

  • Paper and cardboard
  • Plastic bottles
  • Food and drink cans
  • Electrical equipment.

Food waste is a particular issue in hospitality, with UK hotels producing 79,000 tonnes every year, pubs 173,000 tonnes and restaurants 199,100 tonnes. In total, the industry is responsible for producing over 500,000 tonnes of food waste each year, equivalent to nearly a billion plates of food. This highlights the incredible impact simply having proper food recycling processes in place could have. 

The benefits of recycling in the hospitality industry

coloured recycling bins

Having a comprehensive recycling strategy can provide dramatic benefits to your business, no matter your sector. In an industry where public perception and your reputation really count, such as hospitality, these benefits are further increased.

Some of the ways recycling could benefit your business are:

  • Save money: Sending waste to landfill is the most expensive method of disposing of waste. Properly recycling all your waste will dramatically reduce what you’re sending to general landfill, thereby reducing the costs of your waste
  • Meet your obligations: Businesses have an obligation to store and dispose of waste in a safe manner which doesn’t cause harm to humans and ensure certain types of waste are separated. This can be difficult in an industry which has the general public on-site and typically has large amounts of waste. A recycling focus will ensure all waste is separated and force you to consider your disposal practices, ensuring decisions are made which make the process safer
  • Improve your reputation: Environmental concerns are a bigger worry for people than ever before, with consumers showing a desire to support companies with strong environmental practices. Highlighting your strong recycling policy, and getting customers involved where appropriate, will go a long way to building a positive reputation for your business.

Alongside this, valuable storage space for large businesses with a high daily waste output could be freed and separation allows staff to more easily dispose of waste.

How any hospitality business can start recycling

As a customer-facing sector, the hospitality industry provides excellent opportunities to generate engagement with guests in your establishment, whether they’re spending a few hours or several days with you.

In practical terms, make sure you provide recycling bins in easily accessible places – don’t assume customers will go far out of their way to get to the right kind of recycling container.

Make sure you have enough capacity so no one kind of bin is ever completely full, this can quickly lead to customers cross-contaminating other types of waste by using the only available bins.

Staff buy-in may be the most important aspect of managing a successful recycling strategy. Taking the time to communicate with your employees will ensure they have a full understanding of proper waste disposal and its benefits.

Publishing statistics showing improvements over time and the benefits these have had can also be a great way to motivate staff and guests to constantly improve recycling levels.


Pub recycling strategies

brown glass bottles

Having guests buy-in to your recycling plans can be difficult in pubs. Even the most environmentally friendly patrons are visiting to wind-down for an hour or two and don’t want to think about recycling.

With proper training and staff buy-in, there are a number of things you can do to reduce waste and improve your green practices, however:

    • Start by closely monitoring your waste for a specified trial period, a week is usually sufficient. Although you may not be able to build a complete picture, this will give you a good idea about where you stand at present and what your targets should be
    • Work closely with your staff to develop an action plan which details targets, timescales and responsibilities. This is also the ideal time to answer any questions staff may have and ensure buy-in
    • Work to meet customer expectations. If you are finding meals served commonly have food leftover, don’t be afraid of reducing portion sizes. Indeed, a recent survey showed that 82% of pub customers were in favour of having smaller portions at a lower price
    • Make it easy for staff. Ensuring waste is disposed of correctly is easy during quiet moments, but this work is wasted if staff begin to mix waste during peak hours as a way to save time. Have all bins located in areas which make it as easy as possible for your staff, so they’re able to properly dispose of waste and quickly head back to helping customers
    • In the case of smaller pubs, you may also find it become easier by working with your neighbours. This could allow each business to benefit from efficiencies and economies of scale.

Hotel recycling ideas

Reducing the environmental impact of a hotel to minimal levels can seem an impossible task at times, with air conditioning required in rooms, washing machines running constantly and hundreds of guests to look out for.

Many hotels and resorts are now placing a greater focus on recycling, however, and are finding that simple steps can be taken to improve your green credentials and your guest experience:

  • Communication is key. Your staff will have the biggest say on your success, making proper communication and buy-in from them a must. Take the time to ensure they completely understand their role and what you’re hoping to achieve
  • Make it easy for your guests to help in your mission by positioning easily accessible recycling bins in strategic locations throughout your hotel and in all guest rooms
  • Publicise your efforts. Showcasing the strides you’ve made and what you hope to achieve will help to secure buy-in from staff and environmentally-focused guests alike
  • If food waste is a common sight at your hotel, offering your guests doggy bags, giving them the opportunity to take food to their room to eat later can be an incredibly simple method of cutting this down.
  • As your recycling plan begins to take shape, you will begin to benefit from financial savings, incentivising employees  with some of these can increase their motivation and help take your recycling to the next level.


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