Are You Properly Managing Your Hotel's Waste Products?

By Maricha Ellis VP of Marketing & Sales Operations, Stericycle Environmental Solutions | November 05, 2017

There are many guidelines and best practices to follow in order to operate a hazardous waste management program that complies with all federal and state regulations. As many hotels are now dedicating a considerable amount of effort and resources to become more environmentally friendly, it's important to make sure their hazardous waste management practices are aligned with their sustainability program goals.

Hazardous waste comes in many different forms and appears in many different areas of a hotel's property. From toiletry items left behind in guest rooms to commonly-used cleaning products, there is no shortage of hazardous waste accumulated in a hotel. There are many best practices to follow when handling hazardous waste on your property, and a foundational understanding of the regulations defining what constitutes hazardous waste is key to laying the groundwork for a proper hazardous waste management program.

The Fundamentals of Hazardous Waste Management

Certain items commonly found in hotels have hazardous properties. Once an item containing these properties becomes no longer usable, it is deemed to be hazardous waste and must be disposed of in accordance with government-mandated guidelines. Because hotels are considered generators of hazardous waste, there are certain federal and state regulations that must be followed in order to avoid penalties and prevent environmental damage.

Passed by Congress in 1976, the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) states that the generator of hazardous waste is responsible for their waste from the time of generation to the final destruction of the waste. Because the waste is generated at your hotel, you are responsible for identifying and storing it correctly. To ensure hazardous waste management is handled in a safe, efficient and compliant manner, hotels typically employ a service provider to customize a program, training and disposal pick up schedule that best suits the unique needs of their property. Once a hazardous waste management service provider picks up the hazardous waste, that organization assumes the responsibility of the waste and transports it to a treatment facility.

What is Considered Hazardous Waste?

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.