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Home > Garbage and Recycling > Recycling At Your Business > Hotel  

Recycling At Your Business: Hotel

Here are some tips to help your hotel efficiently dispose of waste and still divert some from the landfill.


The hotel industry has changed a lot over the years. Guests want clean comfortable rooms and a bunch of extras. Some of these extra amenities can include a pool, breakfast, coffee, microwaves and green policies. Business travelers and vacationers alike want to relax at the hotel without added guilt of throwing everything away.
Therefore, a recycling system at a hotel needs to be highly visible to the guests and employees. Highly visible does not mean that it should penalize guests that don't want to participate, but it should encourage the ones who do.
     We also suggest implementing conservation along with a recycling program. We have many suggestions for that in our Resource Conservation Section.
Step 1: Know What You Have.

It is best to know what you have before you start. Look at all of the collection points of your garbage (including the dumpster) and ask yourself:
  • Where is the discarded material generated?

  • Is there an easy path from where it is generated to the recycle containers?
  • What kind of garbage is mostly collected at each location (organic, paper, plastic, cardboard)?

  • Can we effectively recycle or compost? Are there services that can come to collect on a regular basis? If so, how do we need to prepare the our waste for pick-up?

Step 2: Green Coordinator.

"Green Coordinator" is a job title we suggest at your facility.

Job description: Evaluate waste and energy flow of the facility. Once evaluated, list several ways to reduce waste and conserve resources. Present to management ideas to decide which solutions are right for the facility. Create a plan of implementation with costs and timetables. Follow progress of plan and make sure the budget and milestones are met. Train other employees on the skills needed for implementation. Monitor the plan.

  • A current employee, probably from housekeeping or maintenance but could be anyone (front desk, etc).
  • Detail oriented, organized and can document a green plan.
  • A reasonable educator and communicator.
  • Good math skills (or at least not math-phobic).
  • Willing to learn about all aspects "going green".
Term of job:
  • 10 hours a week for first month.
  • 5 hours a week for next 3 months.
  • 2 hours a week for next 2 months.
  • 1 hour a week for next 6 months.
  • 2 hours a month indefinitely.
Current hourly wage +15% while working as "Green Coordinator".

Turnover: Even though there can be high turn over in the hotel, try to select someone who will stay for at least 6 months. This will give enough time for the employee to create the necessary documentation for another employee to fill this position if they leave.
Having an enthusiastic employee head up a green plan at your hotel is just one way to make your facility more eco-friendly. And, the job description to the left is one way you can do it.
     Your hotel can hire a professional green service to implement the changes. However, we think it best to groom from within a employee familiar with your corporate culture and facility. Even if you hire a consulting service, the best person to interface with them is your "green coordinator".
     This employee should be able to research many ways your hotel can go green. They should be able to help you decide if you want to buy LED or CFL lighting, water conserving shower heads, eco-friendly systems for pool/spa sanitation and better ways to recycle (just to name a few). They need to call the local contractors, vendors and waste haulers about rates and schedules. They should have access current expenses (utility, water, garbage, sewer, etc) to estimate savings.
     The employee will need that initial 40 hours in the first month to see how things are done currently in all departments and research the possibilities for a green plan. Likewise, investigate if it is plausible to go for certifications and listings (such as LEED or EnergyStar) as well as get tax breaks or rebates for capital expenditures. At the end of the first month, the "Green Coordinator" should be able to present to management ideas and create a plan.
     Over the following months the employee should be basically working himself/herself out of a job implementing the plan.  At the one year mark, the coordinator should be able to monitor the facility and help make changes if needed with a written report monthly. 
     Management should show employees that they support the efforts of the green coordinator by initiating training and reminders of how the green plan works.

Step 3: Calculate Economics.

When your hotel resolves to become more eco-friendly, it does not have to happen all at once. A good plan is a great start. Then, as you save money, you may further implement your plan. Here are the elements you need to consider as you make your plan.


     Green Coordinator: If you pay this person $12.00 an hour and follow the schedule from above you will pay out roughly $1,700 for the first year. After that about $150 a year.
     Installing Upgrades: Assume 2 hours per room from your maintenance staff (depending on the upgrades). Next, assume about 5 hours per amenity (pool, laundry room, front desk, breakfast nook, back office, grounds and so on).
     Maintaining Upgrades: While it is probable the hotel will not have extra labor after the upgrades, assume 1 hour a month from each department (Maintenance, Housekeeping, Front Desk, Back office).

Materials and equipment:
This is very hard to speculate until the green coordinator has done their evaluation. While some equipment will need professional contractors and cost a few thousand dollar, other materials can be installed by housekeeping and be cheaper than what you currently pay.
     We suggest the items are prioritized based on what will save the most the quickest. Then, as those savings are realized, continue to make the planed changes. 

Certification and Listings:
Your hotel may choose to be listed with various programs. Some may have a fee associated with that.
GSTC Membership can cost between $700 and $10,000 depending on the size of your hotel. This will list your hotel in the Travelocity "green hotels" database.
EnergyStar Label may cost a little in labor to apply. We did not see any other fees in our investigation but there may be some.
LEED Certification: According to the web site their average fee is $2,000 but will depend on the project.
    The above are the more nationally (and internationally) recognized certifications.

There are others you may want to look into:

Greenhotels looks like $1 per room + $200 per year.
EcoRooms & EcoSuites $350 for the listing.
Green Seal Different rates for Bronze, Silver and Gold and size of facility. $1,950 to $3,200.

Disclaimer: Greencompletely.com is not responsible for the accuracy of the above fee structure. Contact the service providers for accurate fees. Research date 6/25/13.

A green program may save labor costs in the long run by having more durable items (lighting, etc). Many possibilities open up when creating a program like this.

Materials and Equipment:
There are many programs from local utilities, waste haulers, local governments and the federal government to subsidize the materials you buy to go green. Some can even provide grants to help your business go green. For energy conserving measures and tax breaks we suggest you start by looking at our "Tax Breaks And Rebates" section. A quick call to your waste hauler can help you figure out the possibilities for waste.

     Garbage: Since some hotels see up to 80% diversion from the landfill this can mean significant savings. To the extreme a hotel may see better than 50% reduction in their bill. For your initial calculations the hotel can easily realize 25% reduction in cost.
     Water: Water is used all over the hotel (not just the showers in the guest rooms). Reductions can be realized at the laundry, breakfast nook, pool/spa, and so on. Expect 10% to 40% reduction in your bill depending on what steps you take.
     Sewer: Believe it or not, many cities base their sewer charge on water consumption. Therefore, reducing your water bill will probably reduce the sewer bill by a similar amount.
     Electricity: Lighting, appliances, thermostats will all contribute to a lower electric bill. Depending on the changes the hotel makes, the facility could save 10 - 25% off that bill.

Added Revenue:
Will we sell more rooms? This is a market research question that will depend on many factors. Therefore, we will not tell you that you will, but encourage you to ask a few specific questions.
  • Have local hotels (your competition) adopted green policies?
  • Does our destination tend to attract guests that are more concerned with green issues?
  • Are the business travelers in our area bound by their company policies to seek lodging that is more eco-friendly?
To help answer some of these questions we suggest taking a quick look at the article "Where Green Travel Is Going" from Greentravlersguide. In this article they mention a survey done by Tripadvisor. This survey shows that 79% of business travelers worldwide think a hotel with "eco-friendly" practices is important.

Step 4: Front Desk/Lobby Area.

Paper may be the majority of the waste generated at the front desk. Therefore, we suggest having 2 waste receptacles behind the front desk (paper and garbage). Most of that paper would be computer paper which actually can be worth money to the recycler. The best way might be stackable bins for paper and garbage but that will depend on the front desk.

However, the lobby will have a sitting area, perhaps a small store, breakfast nook and amenities like 24 hour coffee and tea. All these areas will require lighting, heating/cooling and waste disposal.

People will have mini-meetings, read news papers or just lounge in this area. There will usually be a garbage can available for the guest out here. We suggest a partitioned garbage this area. The "recycled" materials could include newspaper, aluminum or anything else that there is a lot of. Make sure there is tasteful and visible signage if separating garbage types. 
Breakfast Nook:
If there is composting locally, the hotel could consider participating in a local program. The first location in the hotel to consider this option is the breakfast nook. Some programs will not take meat and dairy, but most large scale programs will.
     The main point is that most of the garbage generated here is what you provide to your guests. We suggest providing as much bio-degradable items as you can. This can include, plates, utensils, napkins, cups and so on. The cost of these items is becoming more competitive with non-biodegradable products of the same type. See if you can avoid individually packaged items such as cereal, butter, jam, syrup where the packaging is mostly plastic. Have a garbage can (lined with a biobag) with appropriate signage available to the guests for refuse. You will want to have a regular garbage available but make that a smaller can and less conveniently located (with good signage). Don't forget, coffee grounds and tea bags can be composted as well.

These are just a few ideas to get you started in the lobby area.

Step 5: Housekeeping.

Housekeeping is more that just the department that cleans the rooms. Usually they do all the laundry, clean the bathrooms in the lobby area and empty garbage throughout the hotel (not just the rooms).

The wastes coming from this area are heated water, soap and some bleach. In the past, some hotels have had some success asking guests to hang up their towels if they are staying multiple nights. That only reduces water and soap waste if it eliminates loads of wash. While it may help to ask the guests to do this, we feel reducing water/soap waste for each load can have a bigger impact.
     There are commercial clothes washers that use an ozone system that may save a lot of waste water, soap and energy. Some of the claims are:
  • Wash in cold (saving energy heating).
  • Use less water (up to 35%).
  • Faster wash and dry times (20%).
  • Increase linen life (up to 30%).
  • Decrease use of chemicals.
     Ozone is simply like the Oxygen we breath (O2) with an extra Oxygen atom (O3) and is great for the upper atmosphere but not so great for us humans to breath.
     The principle is easy enough. Ozone is created in the washing machine and is dissolved into the wash water. Water with a high concentration of ozone gas will clean dirt and kill bugs. Any unused ozone is collected at the top of the machine and destroyed so the laundry workers do not get exposed.
The main controversial part is if the ozone is diffused with a bubbler or a Venturi Injector system. The winner appears to be a Venturi system but is a little more expensive machine.  Also, since the ozone is created by electricity, one may think that the electric bills will go up. However, with shorter wash and dry times, the electricity use actually turns out to be lower. Here is a .pdf published by Pacific Gas and Electric (2009) showing savings and incentives for many of their customers.
     We also suggest having a ozone monitor for the air in the laundry room to keep the laundry workers safe.

Eventually old linen will no longer be up to your standards. Consider donating these items (towels, comforters, sheets) to charities like Goodwill, homeless shelters or the growing number of linen recyclers. If the fibers are organic (cotton) the old linen may even be composted.

Garbage bags:
You may not be able to control what guests throw into general garbage but you can control what you line the garbage containers with. We suggest liners that are biodegradable. Since the garbage is collected almost everyday around the facility (rooms, lobby, bathrooms, etc) biodegradable liners should last until the garbage is collected. These liners could be biobags or they could be a strong paper. This will remove a lot of plastic from the waste stream.

Step 6: Pool/Spa Area.

There are many wastes to look at in the Pool/Spa area. Here we consider the pool, the bathrooms, showers, workout areas and so on.

Pool/Hot Tub:
The wastes in this area are guest's garbage, waste water, waste chemicals for the pool/hot tub.
     Guest Garbage: This area is a little more difficult to separate waste. Many of the patrons will be small children that may not be able to read. If you decide to separate waste at all, we suggest the "recycle station" level be 4 ft tall (to prevent small children from putting in regular garbage). Maybe the best thing to do is put up signage telling the pool patron to bring their recyclables to the hotel recycling.
     Filtering Pool Water: There is a need to remove bugs and fine particles from the water. The three main ways are Diatomaceous Earth, Sand and Cartridge. Cartridge seems to be the most environmentally responsible since it only requires a quick hose rinse and does not waste a lot of pool water.
     Note: If you vacuum the floor of the pool through the filtration system, a cartridge may not be able to handle the extra dirt for very long. You will need to rinse the cartridge out immediately.
water robot cleanerConsider newer submersible units that have a cartridge built in to clean the floor of your pool. These units will also clean the walls and water line as well as scrub algae. They use a small amount of power, but they will save chemical and main pump costs.
     Sanitizing Pool Water: It is very common to use Chlorine or Bromine to sanitize the water of a pool or spa/hot tub. The sanitation needs of the water can require a lot of chemicals. There are greener alternatives.
Pool ozone / ionization sanitizer We saw in the "Housekeeping" section that ozone can clean laundry, ozone can also clean pool water. An ozone system can be installed near the filtration system and it will kill bacteria and algae (some debate the algae). Another method for sanitizing water is an ionizing system. This system uses copper and silver to kill bacteria, fungus and algae. Many pools use both systems to sanitize the water. Does it eliminate the need for chlorine, algaecide, shock, clarifier? No, but it may cut your use of those chemicals by about 90%. Some systems may make the pool a little more acidic so you may need to increase your use of base (baking soda). Remember, since ozone is harmful to people, ozone systems are designed to sanitize the water in the pipes and destroy the ozone before it comes out into the pool.
     Water Pumps: Many pool and hot tub pumps are on 24 hours a day at 100% capacity. It is good to have them on 24 hours a day because the water goes through the filtration systems and does not stagnate. The question is, "is this enough or too much?" Many hotel pools see their heaviest use from 2 PM to 10 PM and use water pumps to accommodate their times of heaviest use.
variable pump energy chartOne water pump you may want to consider is a variable frequency pump. This type of pump allows for times of high pumping and low pumping capacity. The advantage is that you do not have to run your pump max capacity 100% of the time. This can make a big difference in energy consumption because a 50% reduction in pump speed will reduce the power consumption by about 75%. 
     One needs to observe local regulations for Pool/Spa water "turnover rate" and what is allowed when pool is closed and open. Many state regulators and the CDC recognize the power of secondary sanitizing systems (Ozone, UV, etc) so they are building regulations for sanitation and turnover rate or the water. Typically for pools, the turnover rate is about 6 hours and for hot tubs it is less than 1 hour.
     Heating the pool: There are many ways to reduce wasted energy heating a pool/hot tub. Most hotels will heat water for their pools and hot tubs by burning natural gas. We ask you to consider a few alternatives.
     Place a solar cover over the pool at night. This may take 5-10 minutes by your staff at night and in the morning. Doing this will save on heat and evaporation loss throughout the night. The savings may justify the hour extra of labor spent covering and uncovering (outdoor pool) per week.
     Consider using a heat pump water heater instead of natural gas.
Just to be clear, we are talking about bathrooms you might provide to the guests near the pool area, not the bathrooms in the guest rooms.
     Guest Garbage: Even though most of the garbage from the bathroom will be paper towels, you never know what you will find. Consider having a "Paper Towels Only" garbage and a general garbage. Make sure there is good signage for these receptacles.
     Toilets: If you have conventional toilets installed before 1994, chances are they use 3.5 gallons/flush. Newer toilet tend to be around 1.6 gallons/flush. Replacing toilets could pay for themselves in less than a year, depending on use, water rates and sewer rates.
dual flush conversion kitIf you do not want to throw out perfectly good toilets, consider using a dual-flush conversion kit on the current toilets. Even if every guest does the #2 flush it will save 1.5 gallons a flush. There is more information in our "Toilet" section. In that section, we also have a calculator to help you determine return on investment.

Step 7: Business Center and Other Common Areas.

Coming Soon.

Step 8: The Guest Rooms.

Coming Soon.

Step 9: The Outside.

Landscaping, irrigation and litter are all disposal concerns of most hotels. Many will contract the work out to local landscapers.

Irrigation: Sprinklers are usually set up on a timer and come on at a particular time of day. We suggest that time be when the maintenance staff is on the job.  This way, if there is a sprinkler malfunction it will be noticed by an employee. A malfunction can waste a lot of water and money. If you have good landscapers, they will come in and fix your problem right away. However, we encourage you to train at least 1 employee how to fix sprinklers. It will not cost a lot of money or space to keep a shovel and spare sprinklers on the grounds.
Landscaping includes patches of lawn, water features, potted plants and more. If you have a landscaper, find out where the waste is going. Most will take yard waste to a special landfill that composts or has a use for that material. 
    If they mow a patch of grass, consider instructing them to mulch the lawn instead of bagging. Contrary to popular opinion, this does not cause thatch and it will put nutrients back into the lawn (check out our section on composting for more information).

Litter is a tough thing to try to recycle because it can be just about anything spread over a large area. If you have an employee do a sweep of the outside litter, consider having a 2 compartment receptacle for him/her to carry. One compartment for trash, the other for recyclables. The recycle compartment does not have to be for everything you recycle.

Step 10: The end of the road.

Congratulations! You have made your hotel a "low" or "zero" landfill contributor. Now what?
     Periodically review: Things change and your waste program may need to change over time. Periodically review your program to see if it is the most efficient way of processing your discards.
     Tell your customers: Many of your customers may appreciate staying at a place that shares their passion for living a more green life. They may even choose your hotel over others because of your green policies. Consider including mention of your green practices within your advertizing. You may also want to put up signage in your lobby and rooms telling customers of the green features of the hotel.

Consider having your hotel listed on green directories. Travelocity has a "green directory" and your hotel will have an "eco-friendly" tag when showing up on a search. This program is from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. We believe that other travel sites and listings will use these directories.
  • Save money on disposal fees.
  • Happy customers knowing their waste will not take up space in the landfill.
  • Create new products from waste.

Some helpful links:




Our recommendations by business types.
  • Church
  • Venue/Conference Halls
  • School

http://www.ozonelaundrysystems.com/index.html, Ozone Laundry Systems, taken 7/15/13

http://www.thelaundryforum.com/ozone-laundry-systems-facts-vs-fallacy-part-2/, Ozone Laundry: Fact vs. Fallacy, Laundry Forum, taken 7/15/13.

http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/eucalyptus-sheets-and-recycled-plastic-curtains-greening-the-hotel, Recycling Linen, greentechefficiency, taken 7/15/13.

http://blog.timesunion.com/lifeathome/green-summer-eco-friendly-pool-options/4568/, Green summer, Eco-friendly pool options. Life@Home Magazine, taken 7/26/13.

http://www.advancedpoolsandspas.com/eco.php, Advanced eco-friendly pool, from Advanced pool and spa. taken 7/26/13.

https://www.recyclebank.com/live-green/pool-care-goes-green, Pool care goes green, Recyclbank, taken 7/26/13.

http://www.poolsolutions.com/tips/ozone-as-a-swimming-pool-sanitizer.html, Ozone pool sanitation problems, Pool Solutions, Taken 7/26/13.

http://apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=246-260, WAC code 246-260 Water recreation facilities. Taken 8/2/13.

http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/publications/books/housing/cha14.htm#Content_Turnover_Rate, Residential Swimming Pools and Spas. CDC, taken 8/2/13.

http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/pdf/swimming/pools/mahc/structure-content/mahc-disinfection-water-quality-annex.pdf, Model Aquatic Health Code, Document from CDC, taken 8/2/13.


Items in our Waste and Recycling" section.

  • Recycle Centers:
    Home Recycling ________________
  • Composters:
    Home Recycling ________________
  • Vermicomposters:
    Home Recycling ________________
  • Garbage Bags:
    Home Recycling ________________
  • Recycle Kits:
    Home Recycling ________________