The one key thing you should do to reduce single-use plastic and still meet hygiene standards

It's no secret that we have (sadly) seen a return to some single-use plastic products and the introduction of new products as a response to COVID-19. More recently however, we've been happy to see that over 125 scientists have signed a statement confirming that single-use plastic does not necessarily equate to better hygiene. To quote part of the statement....

To prevent transmission through objects and surfaces, one can assume that any object or surface in a public space — reusable or disposable — could be contaminated with the virus. Single-use plastic is not inherently safer than reusables, and causes additional public health concerns once it is discarded.

It's actually just logical thinking isn't it.

Wrapping the remote controls for the television or the air-conditioning may keep the remote control clean, but if the plastic wrap is not cleaned, it will itself become a vector of transmission. Why introduce a process that creates waste when simply sanitising the remote control (instead of the wrap) would work just as well.

Sealing the room doesn't guarantee that the room has been properly sanitised, it guarantees that no-one has gone in there after the sticker has been put on the door. What about the door handle you have to touch to get in?

We delivered a webinar today (22nd July 2020) on this exact topic and one of the questions we were asked demonstrated a key issue.

If we don't use single-use plastic or other single-use materials, how can we give our guests the perception of hygiene so that they feel confident in staying with us?

The key word here being 'perception'. Single-use plastic gives the 'perception' of hygiene but as we have seen from the example of the remote control, it is just that, it is not a 'guarantee'.

In fact, it can even be worse as items like gloves for example, give the impression of clean hands. Of course your hands are clean but the gloves are not and who thinks to wash their gloves throughout the day? Even putting new gloves on means nothing if you haven't washed your hands first.

Processes over Products

The one key thing we recommend you do is to spend time prioritising processes over products.

Rather than putting your faith in single-use plastic that creates waste, wastes money and doesn't necessarily change anything, think about what you can do to ensure that your processes guarantee the best possible standards of hygiene. Once you've established that, think about how best to communicate that to your guests so that they are confident you are doing everything you can to keep things clean and sanitised.

Some quick ideas to replace products with processes include:

  • Remove room amenities (including robes, tea, coffee, stationery, extra pillows and blankets and the usual shampoo, shower gel and body lotion and offer them on request

  • Create new standard operating procedures for refillable amenities to ensure hygiene standards are kept high

  • Operate manned buffet stations rather than providing packaged products for take-away

  • Serve contactless drinks in reusable cups

  • Install contactless water dispensers and hand sanitisers to avoid plastic bottles

  • Train staff on communicating what initiatives are in place instead of using stickers, plastic wrap and other unnecessary packaging

  • Ensure housekeeping teams are clear on cleaning procedures

  • Ensure supervisory staff follow up to quality check that procedures are being followed correctly

Get your teams together to decide how best to communicate to guests. What platforms are there available to you to reach them before they travel and while they stay with you?

Ideas include:

  • Information on booking confirmation

  • Social media campaigns / newsletters, web updates that focus on hygiene AND all the other good things you do, guests want to be safe but they also want to know they going to have a good time, support a sustainable business etc

  • In-house TV channels

  • Notices at reception and in other places where people congregate (lifts, stairwell, even on the back of toilet door!)

  • Applications

As more and more hotels, accommodations and hospitality businesses open up, we will all have different experiences and will no doubt re-visit brand standards and procedures again and again as we learn on the go.

For the latest advice from UNWTO, UNEP, The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, click here