15 October 2019
How London's hotels and members' clubs are taking a stand on single-use plastics
Hotels are often synonymous with plastic waste, whether it’s the mini toiletries in the bathroom to the room keycards, but at The Rosewood, London they are doing things differently.
“From launch we have been bottling our own still and sparkling water — reducing the use of 5,500 plastic bottles per week — and we now have a 100% reduction on single-use plastic in our restaurants and bars,” says Michael Bonsor, managing director of The Rosewood. “We are also sending our wine corks and used linens to charities who recycle them. On the roof, there’s a garden designed with London Bee Line to create a 75km pollinating pathway.”
The Hoxton in Holborn is also trying to shake up the hospitality industry. “We’re working hard to drastically reduce our plastic use in our hotels and we now have water cartons from Aquapax instead of plastic bottles in guest minibars, and we use refillable bottles of Blank, our own brand of toiletries instead of miniatures,” says Romilly Martin, brand director of The Hoxton. “We’re also working on eliminating all plastic from our daily breakfast bags and are in the process of testing the different options. In Portland, Oregon, we’re making breakfast bars in-house to avoid using plastic — this is something we’re looking to potentially roll out globally, or explore similar options.”
Apparently, alternatives to yoghurt pots are also particularly tricky.
Martin points out that when sourcing alternatives to plastic, you often have to dig deep to see if they really are more sustainable. “We have explored ‘corn based’ or ‘plant based’ plastics, but we’ve found them to be problematic as they cannot be recycled. Also, if they go to landfill, they don’t break down, and are just as bad as standard plastic,” she says. “We are at the beginning of our journey, and reducing plastic is just one part of the bigger piece we are working on to be more responsible as a brand. Guests and staff are telling us more and more that this is something they care about and are pushing us to be better as much as we are pushing ourselves.”
Plastic-coated disposable coffee cups have become emblematic of the single- use plastic problem (more than 99.75% of them don’t get recycled). But The Hoxton have teamed up with other London-based initiatives who are doing clever things with them. “We’re working with Kaffeeform to offer our guests reusable coffee cups made from coffee waste and are re-using waste coffee f rom our London hotels for body scrubs by east London skincare company Monta Monta. Guests can buy the scrub as part of our ‘Best of’ London product range,” says Martin.
At The Conduit in Mayfair, their eco-credentials are clearly on display. From the cellar- level bar which has banned plastic straws and uses waste fruit to make syrups for cocktails, to the regenerative braking lifts which produce and resuse energy like a Tesla and take you up to the rooftop kitchen garden. The members’ club has had climate change and sustainability on the agenda since it launched in October 2018. “Even from the very early stages of pre-opening we tasked ourselves with not bringing any plastic into the business,” says Joel Williams, CEO of The Conduit. “Although that wasn’t always possible — air-con units and fridges were the trickiest things to source alternatives for — we knew we wanted to do everything we could to bring down our plastic use.”
The club had two sustainability officers on board while they were building it, and worked with A Plastic Planet to do a plastic audit of the company. The Soho House group recently announced that they too had partnered with the organisation. The kitchen at The Conduit is now 100% single-use plastic free. “All our waiter trays and coasters are made out of hemp. We use reusable plastic containers instead of cling-film, and have eliminated plastic sous vide bags when cooking,” says Williams. “Our next challenge is working with suppliers. We’re looking to create a reusable crate made out of hemp to bring produce into the restaurants.”
Williams admits that making this commitment in a busy club and maintaining the high-spec feel members expect hasn’t been easy. “I remember talking to one of our head chefs about having zero single-use plastic in the kitchen and he said ‘it’s not possible’, but once you get everyone on board, we did it within 24 hours,” he says. “It’s not expensive — I don’t think it costs us any more than using single-use plastic and it might even cost us less. Creating a culture of no plastic in our business has led to real behaviour change for our staff and members. I now get milk delivered in reusable glass bottles at home. With a bit of thought and focus it is possible to eliminate single- use plastic in your life.”
Williams also says disposable coffee cups aren’t banned from the club, but they’re frowned upon. “In our pre-opening head office you’d see loads of guys running around with disposable coffee cups, but now if I brought one of those into the club I think I’d feel a lot of shame,” he says. “Becoming more sustainable becomes a bit like a subconscious cult! It’s contagious and it’s wonderful. There are 15,000 restaurants in London, if they were all doing the same it would make a massive difference.”