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Michele Sponagle

Senior editor

Smitten by hotels ever since she was a kid, hoarding toiletries started early and picked up steam as Michele Sponagle began a career as a freelance journalist. Her globetrotting has taken her to properties in more than 50 countries, from rustic B&Bs to sprawling resorts.

The world has finally woken up to the dangers of its reliance on plastic. It’s harmful to the environment, water and wildlife. Lately, many hotels are doing their part to reduce their usage and to adopt greener practices.

Plastic straws remain a huge problem. In the United States alone, 500 million are discarded EACH day and take hundreds of years to deteriorate. In the meantime, they pollute waterways and cause the death of aquatic animals.

In July 2018, Hyatt announced that it will stop automatically serving drinks with plastic straws and drink picks. Starting in September, they will be provided to customers only by request at all of its properties (more than 700 worldwide).

Around the same time, Marriott International said it would ban straws outright from its over 6,500 properties within the next year. It’s a decision that will have a big impact. Marriott is the world’s largest hotel chain and the move will eliminate one billion plastic straws and a quarter billion stirrers.

Hilton Hotels & Resorts has also agreed, preventing five million plastic straws from hitting landfills each year, along with 20 million plastic water bottles.

Other brands also following suit include: Hard Rock International, Karisma Hotels & Resorts, Park Hotels & Resorts (India), Taj Hotels, Four Seasons and Accor Hotels.

Meanwhile, Great Wolf Lodge, the family friendly resort near Niagara Falls, Ont., is swapping plastic straws for paper ones. It will still have a few plastic ones on hand to accommodate those who are unable to drink from non-flexible paper straws—a decision that will make many who have lobbied against the elimination of plastic straws on behalf of disabled guests happy. Six Senses Hotels, Resorts and Spas have substituted versions made out of lemongrass and bamboo. London’s The Rubens at the Palace hotel is using straws made of pasta. Gluten-free guests can opt for biodegradable paper.

Some companies are going even further in the battle against plastic. Take the luxury safari lodge Angama Mara, for example. The Kenyan property has been virtually plastic free for almost a year. Guests are served water is reusable glass bottles and the lodge even started its own water bottling plant. Instead of plastic laundry bags, it now uses linen ones. For its famous picnics, the signature basket includes sandwiches wrapped with paper and string, stainless steel tins and cutlery and cotton napkins. Waste is disposed of using reusable canvas bags. Its own staff of 140 members were given aluminum water bottles to curb the need for plastic.

For fans of hotel toiletries, the push against plastic sparks mixed feelings. Soon, more hotels will be foregoing those cute little bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body gel and lotion and introducing refillable bottles and in-shower product dispensers instead. Grab them while you still see them now. They are destined to disappear as hotels cut the cord and take single-use plastics out of the guest experience.

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