Waste Management Innovations for Your Hotel Chain
By Michael Hess Founder/Chief Executive Officer, Waste Harmonics | November 03, 2019
We live in a digital era fueled by connected devices and experiences. Stop and take a look around you. What do you see? There are likely a variety of smart technology advancements surrounding you: smartphones, smartwatches, smart cars, smart locks, smart thermostats and so much more. The Internet of Things (IoT) has completely transformed the way we live, work and play – and will continue to do so moving forward.
This very concept funnels directly into the waste management industry. Enter the "internet of trash," where technology is designed to help you solve your waste and recycling challenges while making your program more efficient and sustainable for the long term. New innovations can help you keep your hotel waste program in tip-top shape and positively impact your bottom line.
Before we jump into advances that are changing the way your hotel can approach waste management, it's important to recognize that every hotel is different. There are many instances in life when "one size fits all" works just fine-think watches or baseball hats-but in waste management, a customized approach works best.
You work hard to ensure every guest has an exceptional experience every time they choose your hotel, and making sure your waste management program is in order should be a top priority. Whether you're a regional hotel leader, a multi-national chain or a hotel management company, any technology solution should be customized to your unique needs. This is the best way to ensure you have the most efficient and cost-effective waste and recycling solution.
Audit Your Waste Streams
Do you know how much waste your hotel is producing? And what kinds? Or how much you're spending on hauling fees? The best way to get a good handle on all of these things is to do a waste audit. A waste audit results in a thorough examination of the amount and type of waste your hotel is producing, as well as the sources of the waste.
What it all comes down to is that not all waste is created equal. And disposal options and costs can vary greatly. Here are a few examples and questions to consider:
- Let's say you're upgrading your hotel rooms and you're looking to recycle old chairs and mattresses. Are you using more than one vendor to get rid of the items? How much are they charging? How many trips do they have to make? Can this process be simplified and save you money?
- Or maybe you're wondering how to manage the waste within your lobby. It's important to pay attention to the everyday occurrences and patterns within this area, especially given the amount of foot traffic from guests. What's being thrown away most near the reception area?
- And the bathroom? Are there items that can be recycled? These questions can help you craft a strategy to tackle any opportunities for improvement to streamline waste coming from the lobby. This will also help ensure your space is free of overflowing trash or recycling receptacles to create the best welcoming atmosphere for guests.?
Capturing qualitative and quantitative waste data from across your hotel chain or operation enables you to reduce waste, identify new opportunities for recycling and food waste programs, and target organization-wide training programs to maximize diversion. A comprehensive look into your waste streams will set the stage for future practices and allows you to develop a program that functions exactly to your specific needs-and may even save you money.
Remote Tracking System
Auditing the waste and recycling data is the first step, but one of the best benefits is realized by continuously monitoring your waste data. This is where a remote tracking system comes in. Monitoring your waste management data across your hotel can help you keep an eye on your waste streams, along with how much waste and recycling you're generating-especially as guest attendance ebbs and flows with the change of seasons, holidays and special events.
Some of today's waste tracking options offer remote access as part of the package. This is critical, as it allows you to get a 24/7 real-time glimpse into your waste program. This type of disposal machine monitoring functions via a secure, cloud-based connection that uses sensor technology to measure critical waste equipment components and delivers key data back to a personalized dashboard designed specifically for your hotel. It can capture data such as fullness, oil temperature, container connections, safety features, operating performance, switching controls and more.
The system will help automate a lot of the stressors when it comes to waste management (pickup, service, etc.), which means no more doing things the old-fashioned way when you're implementing analytics-driven efforts. It will also be able to provide you with updates and email notifications-such as fullness, compactor pickup/return, predictive maintenance and much more-so you can stay in tune with your waste program. They typically operate on a private, secure machine-to-machine network so you don't have to worry about any special equipment as part of setup.
If you own multiple hotels, you know that sometimes you have to coordinate with several haulers at once, resulting in increased paperwork and labor. But this type of cloud-based system can help you streamline that by being the single point of contact and consolidating all invoices from each hauler while also customizing the billing process to fit your specific needs.
One of the key factors to keep in mind is that you don't have to walk this new territory alone. Working with a managed service provider to monitor and evaluate key numbers and activities like the above examples can help you evaluate the effectiveness of your current program and find other ways to maximize efficiencies. A provider can work closely with you to tailor the waste management platform so it captures key data, tracks it and generates detailed reports so you can make sure you're hitting your waste management goals. Working with a managed service provider can help streamline your processes and ultimately reduce costs.
An important consideration when looking for a waste management partner is to remember that most waste management companies offer upfront savings when you begin a program. Be sure your partner is also able to provide continuous improvement regularly to ensure your waste program is where it should be all year.
Today, more people and organizations seek out hotels and conference centers that can demonstrate an environmental mindset that goes beyond simply requesting that guests reuse towels. We're talking about maximizing waste and recycling programs at every level-from recycling plastic shampoo bottles to identifying zero-landfill and philanthropic donation options. Your guests will appreciate your commitment to sustainability, and you'll appreciate the savings.
Achieving a fully sustainable program will take time and commitment from stakeholders inside and outside your hotel, as well as using unconventional approaches in waste management and reduction. For example, capturing food that is thrown into traditional trash receptacles is a huge opportunity. Or, items outside of the traditional trash stream-such as linens, toiletries, bed springs and electronics-typically have room for program improvements.
Many hotels are looking for ways to reduce and minimize the amount of waste going to landfills; however, traditional recycling services are not always a feasible or cost-effective option for hotels that are smaller or have lower volumes. But there are options for smaller hotels, too. Some companies offer recyclable containers that they'll send directly to your hotel; once it's full, you can ship it back to them and they'll process the shipment directly to a recycling facility for you.
Additionally, hotels are even seeking zero-landfill opportunities-and today it's more of a reality than ever before. In combination with donating and customized recycling, partnering with Waste-to-Energy providers allows you to achieve zero-landfill opportunities. Achieving a landfill waste diversion rate of 100%, especially with amenities recycling, used to be an unachievable goal but is now well within reach.
One key factor to keep in mind if you're interested in implementing a zero-landfill strategy is to start small. It's not something that is going to happen overnight. Small steps, like donating old couches, TVs and dressers or putting recycling receptacles in rooms so guests can recycle their amenities, will go a long way in your efforts to be a zero-landfill hotel. It will take time and planning with your staff and guests to fully realize the potential, as well as address any pain points along the way.
By taking advantage of the technology-driven waste and recycling systems available today, you can simplify one part of your behind-the-scenes operation that is critical to your bottom line. Work with a managed service provider to review program data, evaluate where your internal team can improve or find efficiencies, and help save costs overall. By using that data, you can implement a waste-saving system with set priorities and goals while continuing to evaluate and fine-tune your process for the best results.
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