Mandarin Oriental nears 70% reduction in plastic footprint

Pandemic impact sees luxury hospitality company adjust its SUP goal by 12 months

Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group (MOHG) has extended its window to achieve a goal of eliminating all single-use plastics (SUP) across its portfolio of luxury hotels by 12 months, citing the impact of the pandemic on reaching its initial goal of the end of March 2021.

Three months on from that deadline (proposed in October 2019), the Group has made significant progress towards meeting the goal, despite ongoing challenges. By the end of Q1 2021, the Group had achieved nearly 70% reduction in this annual plastic footprint. Based on estimated plastic stock depletion timelines and supplier delivery commitments, it is expected that all hotels will eliminate SUP by the end of Q1 2022, avoiding 930 tonnes of plastic waste each year.

The principal reason for the Group not hitting the target date is the delay in usage of existing SUP supplies due to the low business levels caused by the pandemic.

Image credit: Brian Yurasits/Unsplash

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The Group has been committed to eliminating SUP across all areas of its hotels, including rooms, spa, transport, restaurants and bars as well as in back-of-house areas not seen by guests, such as offices, colleague areas and kitchens. To help colleagues work through their efforts to eliminate SUP, the most common SUP items were identified across the three main operational departments: Food&Beverage, Spa and Rooms. Of these, six high-impact items accounted for 81% of annual SUP waste generated:

Garbage bags (294 tonnes per year)
Water bottles (7.7 million bottles per year)
Slippers (816,000 pairs per year)
Vacuum bags for food (88 tonnes per year)
Cling film (80 tonnes per year)
Amenities – shampoo, conditioner and shower gel (4.9 million bottles per year)

The pandemic has led to temporary hotel closures and low occupancies, thereby slowing the depletion of existing stocks of plastic products by up to 12 months in some markets.

The Group has not used the pandemic as a reason to relax its focus on the elimination of SUP. For example, ‘We Care’ packages for guests include reusable fabric facemasks that are plastic-free as the Group firmly believes that hygiene and the highest sanitary standards can be maintained without SUP.

Paper straws | Source: Manadrin Oriental Singapore/Facebook

Moreover, the Group has consistently sought to use eco-alternatives that are completely plastic-free, however, where none are available in the market, some exceptions to its commitment to eradicate SUP have been made. Examples include toothbrush bristles that are still plastic, while in the view of health and safety, hygiene seals for F&B items such as plastic seals for beverages or candy jars have not been removed to make them free of SUP. Likewise, medical items, especially hygienic wrapped medical-grade kit, are exempted in first aid kits.

Although supplier packaging is excluded from these calculations, as MOHG does not have direct operational control, hotels continue to tackle this through collaborative actions with suppliers.

“Although our ambitious timeline to eliminate all single-use plastic from our premises by the end of March 2021 has been deferred by one year, largely as a consequence of the pandemic, we have made massive progress, with a majority of our hotels expected to reach the elimination goal by the end of July this year,” said James Riley, Group Chief Executive. “Despite the ongoing challenging conditions, our colleagues have continued to embrace our commitment to deliver on the Group’s sustainability responsibilities,” he added.

The Group will issue a further report on progress in Q4 2021.

Lead image credit: John O’Nolan/Unsplash

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