So why have we see increased production of bottled amenities?
If liquid soap has no obvious hygiene benefit, and creates environmental issues, why have companies been increasing their production and marketing of bottled amenities? The answer is simple: profit. Bar soap lasts much longer than liquid soap, and so consumers will purchase less of it annually. Indeed, a comparison by US website Daily Finance showed that showering with the recommended amount of body wash costs HK$1.33 per use, while using the same amount of bar soap cost just HK$0.09. There is a clear profit motive for companies to encourage customers to switch to liquid soap. And their efforts have been overwhelmingly successful.
How can we tackle the problems created by bottled amenities?
There are several different routes for hotels to take if they wish to tackle the problems created by bottled amenities. While the options may differ, all can help the hospitality industry become more environmentally responsible. Each waste reduction program can help protect the environment, preserve natural resources and reduce costs.
Option 1: Refillable dispenser bottles
Hotels can help by changing the design of their bottled amenities. Instead of offering small, single-use plastic bottles for each guest, hotels can switch to using ‘normal-sized’ bottles that are fitted with pump dispensers and fixed to the wall. This means that bottled amenities are not simply thrown away after being partially used, resulting in less wastage of the amenity itself and the plastic that would have been used to hold it. Hotels can opt for amenities that are biodegradable and made of natural ingredients and do not have a negative impact on the environment.
Admittedly, this option can pose some issues for hotel branding. Some guests believe it looks cheap: they have become accustomed to bottled amenities and consider them part of the hotel experience. However others prefer the convenience of liquid dispensers: little bottles can be difficult to open and run out quickly, so a fixed dispenser can be seen as an easier option.
Option 2: ‘Take it with you’
Another innovative approach is that taken by the South Pacific Soap Company, which has created a ‘goodie bag’ of bottled amenities. This is a bag made from recycled paper that encourages hotel guests to take their partly-used amenities back home with them, finish the products and recycle the containers.
This approach creates benefits for both consumers and hotels. Encouraging guests to finish their products at home means they are more likely to finish the product, reducing the waste of soap. It also reduces plastic waste as the containers are recycled. For hotels, it can reduce the waste they send to landfill, helping the environment and cutting costs. Furthermore, this approach helps guests get involved and understand their individual role to play in helping solve environmental problems.
Option 3: Bottled amenity recycling
Processing liquid amenities is very different to processing bar soap. The process itself, equipment, challenges, and even distribution are different from bar soap and do not have a lot of overlap. However, liquid amenities are a good candidate for recycling due to the vast amount of waste generated and wasted hygiene potential in the soap thrown away from this portion of the hospitality industry. The process of recycling bottled amenities has several different steps.
Process of Recycling Liquid Amenities
Step 1: Collection
The first step in the process of recycling liquid amenities is collection. This will firstly require educating hotel staff on what can and cannot be recycled. Collection will also be affected by what kinds of bottles each hotel uses. Recycling plastics, especially very small containers, can be difficult, and this must be considered before the process of recycling begins.
Step 2: Sorting
The process of recycling liquid amenities is made much easier by sorting the different types of liquid amenities. This should ideally be done by the hotel, by using different bins for different amenities Different hotels have many different types of small bottled amenities such as, shampoo, body wash, conditioner, mouthwash and toothpaste.
However, in general, conditioner and lotions are not ideal for recycling because they cannot easily be removed from their bottles. Furthermore, they don’t necessarily contribute to the goal of improving hygiene. Soap is vital for hygiene, and any collection of bottled amenities should focus on this primarily.
Step 3: Processing the liquid amenities
To recycle and reuse the liquid amenities they must first be drained from their bottles. Bottles and tubes need to be washed before draining, and after draining if they are being recycled. This requires large amounts of water, space, and manpower.
There are two main methods to achieve this:
The Squeeze Method
This is done by either hand squeezing/rolling,or using a tube squeezer. This generally works best for tubes or softer plastics: rigid bottles are too difficult to remove soap this way.
The Gravity Drain Method
This method requires using gravity to drain liquids from bottles into a collection container. It is very effective at removing all the liquid, but it requires an open and flat space that won’t be disturbed, time for draining, and a specialized device called Draining Board, created to fit the specific bottle sizes.