Each year, InterContinental Hotel Group—the corporation that owns chains like Holiday Inn and Kimpton Hotels, and 5,600 properties around the world—uses 200 million tiny plastic bottles for shampoo, lotion, and other bathroom amenities. They’re products that travelers love to bring home, albeit often to end up forgotten in a drawer. They’re also a big source of plastic waste, which is why the company now plans to end the era of the bathroom miniature.
By 2021, the hotels will shift to larger bottles and bulk dispensers in all 843,000 of its guest rooms. Some of this is already happening: If you’ve been to a Holiday Inn Express recently, for example, you probably used bulk dispensers. The company’s Voco Hotels, Even Hotels, and Avid Hotels brands have used bulk dispensers since the hotels launched. Kimpton is beginning to make the switch. Six Senses, a chain of resorts, hotels, and spas, uses ceramic dispensers.
The dispensers will still need to be filled via bottles, but eliminating minibottles can help reduce the total amount of plastic and potentially also make it more likely that the plastic is recycled. In California, the state assembly recently passed a bill that would ban minibottles in larger hotels—so this is something that may soon be mandated for the hotel company, rather than a choice. (Bulk dispensers are already more common at budget hotels, since it saves chains money not to offer individual bottles.) It’s a small change in the overall challenge of waste, like plastic straws (which the company is also eliminating, to the tune of 50 million straws a year). But it represents the recognition of another product that really didn’t need to exist in the first place.