Throwing pearls in front of swines or how hotel managers could approach waste reductions


          Mr. Bob Garbage, Hotel Manager of the luxurious Pearl Resort doesn’t has the faintest idea how he is going to get through this meeting. Earlier in the morning, his boss, Mr. Hanspeter White, a full blood hotelier since when JFK was in office, has given him specific instructions, that he expects a drastic reduction of the amount of waste to landfill within 3 months. Mr. White nonchalantly mentioned that this waste reduction within 3 months is one of his new KPI’s, worth 5% of his bonus.

          Now he sits here, in this green team meeting for more than an hour already, trying to get the members to come up with ideas how to reduce waste. The Assistant Housekeeping manager just finished a 10 minute rant in which she more or less listed the understaffing, limited space on each floor’s housekeeping pantry and the complete communication breakdown between her evening shift and the overnight shift of the stewarding department for the impossibility of this new direction. Mentioning in closing that in the past 20 years nobody every cared what happened with the garbage anyway!

          Bob thinks by himself that perhaps the previous 20 minutes of PowerPoint slide bombardment by the Chief engineer had put everyone on the defensive while at the same time he desperately tries to remember how many kilograms are in a cubic meter.

          The door opens and in walks the Executive Chef Monsieur Jean-Claude Belmondo. After sitting down, he leans over to the Receiving Clerk Tu-Anh and starts to inquire why the vegetable supplier was once again late and had mixed up the order completely. Tu Anh smiles and says that he doesn’t know, while thinking to himself that he might has made a mistake when he emailed the order yesterday late in the evening. “Ai-ya” reflects Tu-Anh, I work here since 1995 but this new purchasing system is so complicated. Thanks God, I know the owner of the supply company; they still owe me for my covering up their constant underweighting deliveries.

          The Chief steward, Mr. Sorin is getting more restless by the minute. He is concerned to suddenly hear all this talk about waste management. What is going to happen with all the aluminium cans, paper and food waste Jack and me are selling direct to the waste handlers, he ponders to himself?’

          Miss Julie has raised her hand for a while already and now askes the gathering:” Have you all also read in last weeks Le Journal that this new law is coming where it is illegal for companies to throw away food? Does that apply to hotels as well?”

          Bob looks pleadingly over to the Assistant Financial Controller Mrs Daeng, and says:” Has the head office said anything about this?”

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          Mrs. Daeng looks up from her new smart phone on which she has been busy liking pictures of her daughter’s weekend trip and says: “What?”


          The above depiction of a hotel meeting is of course fictitious and is built on clichés and reoccurring personal nightmares.

          The subsequent solutions listed here however are based on experiences gained from 30 years of hotel operation and more than 100 onsite EMS audits executed at hotel operations all over Asia.

          In reality, Hotels are in the position in which there is a report for almost everything; Hotels install computer systems (e.g. Front office, Finance department, which in turn is linked with the purchasing-, storeroom- and receiving area and revenue-generating departments such as Food and Beverage, Spa and others.) besides all the laptops and desktops available for the executives.

          1) What you can measure – you can manage

          Measure the current amount of waste by utilizing existing systems and by analysing those system-reports vis a vis location of waste produced, amounts of waste disposed and amounts of waste recycled. Measurement can either be day to day or average based on regular samplings.

          2) Waste reduced is waste you don’t need to handle…and pay.

          Once waste amounts based on actual counting or regular sampling are on hand a small taskforce (I recommend Purchasing) can start communicating with the management of supply companies who are the source of the most waste. The objective is to find a win-win solution in a timeframe, which is comfortable for all involved stakeholders.

          3) The 20/80 rule of positive reinforcement

          Select a small number of suppliers first and don’t be afraid to switch and or replace if the going gets though. The idea is to reach at least one success story as soon as possible. This positive feedback in turn can be used to start delegate new and or multiple approaches with other departments or suppliers.

          4) Record – Record – Record

          Write down and measure what you are going to do, then write down and measure what you are doing and then write down and measure what you have done. At this point let the records be analysed by a non-related person (preferably a superior with management system knowledge) and ask for feedback and ways how to improve.

          5) Communicate!

          Once feedback from a superior is forthcoming ask for approval to communicate internally and externally. Split the stakeholders you want to communicate to into “account payable” and “account receivable” or expense- or revenue generating stakeholders. Adjust the language as well as the time when to communicate for each of them accordingly. Remember point 4 !

          6) Creative Destruction

          If you have followed points 1, 4 & 5 you should be able to provide basic ROI calculations and changes to processes or procedures. Write them down and link them with existing reports and or systems. By doing this you merge old with new and reduce the danger of creating duplicate systems, which is a drain on motivation, time and capital


          The cost associated with waste disposal for a hotel in Asia is currently negligent. Some South East Asian Capitals start from 150 Dollar per month for a non-restricted amount of waste.

          Existing recycling systems and infrastructure are non-official and are different from district to district.

          Several of these cities are in various stages of discussions and negotiations to change said charges. Increments in waste removal cost have an immediate impact to the bottom-line of a hotel.

          1)     Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken?

          Starting to reduce waste amounts once the charges have been increased is a catch up game at best.

          2)     Recycling and Up cycling are skills

          It takes time to get effective recycling and up cycling skills and systems in place.

          3)     Waste has a carbon foot print

          CH4 (Methane) is 23 times stronger than CO2 –hence waste has am impact on an operations overall GHG footprint.

          4)     Multiplication and motivational factor

          Hotel operations have large number of employees who each in turn have families. Skills learned during work, which are applicable at home, have a motivating and bonding factor.

          5)     Financial

          Reduced packaging has an impact on weight, which in turn has an impact on the transport cost.

          Less waste produced – less waste charges.

          Recycled waste generates revenue

          Up cycling reduces expenses (bed linen up cycled into coasters, pillow covers up cycled into laundry bags aso.

          6)     Reducing environmental harmful substances

          Switching from plastic bottles to glass bottles (complimentary in room water) can save up to 2000kg plastic (calculated at an annual 75% occupancy for a 150 room hotel with 2 bottles per room)

          Daniel Koeppel

          Daniel is an environmental sustainability specialist with a hospitality background. He is passionate in supporting visionary hotel companies wishing to increase their environmental sustainability know how and solutions. Contact us now for a non-committing assessment!

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