Turning the tide

Jane Longhurst By Jane Longhurst
Uploaded 04 April 2019

As the tide turns against single-use plastic Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the Meetings Industry Association (mia), encourages the industry to do its bit in reducing its plastics use.
 
Over the last year or so we have all become more conscious about our use of single-use plastics. In fact, such has been the focus on this area that Collins dictionary named 'single-use' the term of 2018.

Reducing plastic use is certainly an area we, as an industry, should be focusing on. According to WRAP, the amount of plastic waste generated annually in the UK is estimated to be nearly five million tonnes with 75 per cent heading to landfill.

Within the hospitality industry, 50 per cent of plastics are single-use and 15 per cent of this is deemed totally unnecessary or a force of habit according to pressure group Positive Impact.

We know that, like other industries, the meetings and hospitality sectors are keen to cut their reliance on single-use plastics in a bid to operate more sustainably and lessen their impact on the environment, which is why the mia has launched the #20PercentLess campaign.
The campaign asks organisations to commit to eliminating single-use plastic by a minimum of 20% each year for the next five years, so that by 2025 they will no longer be using it.

Plastic, of course, is found across the industry - from the small plastic bottles of shampoo and shower gel available in hotel bathrooms, to the bottles of water supplied to delegates at meetings - but there are ways we can reduce our reliance on it.

One hotelier - Ivor Turner, general manager at Teddington hotel The Lensbury - has already made great headway in reducing the amount of single-use plastic used within his business and we are fortunate to be able to share his experiences and advice for others through our #20PercentLess report.

Available to mia members to download from the mia's membership portal accessed via the association's website, the report includes details of The Lensbury's work to cut its use of single-use plastics and some valid pointers for hoteliers.

At The Lensbury, Turner now supplies in-room toiletries in biodegradable packaging with yearly shipments from China stored off-site until needed at the hotel to minimise environmental impact. Other moves include replacing plastic cups and straws with biodegradable paper ones and replacing plastic water bottles by cans in vending machines.

Turner admits that reducing plastics use is not easy, but it can be done. His tips for those who want to follow suit, include carrying out a plastic audit to identify all areas where plastics are used and then tackling it in stages, focusing on the area where you can make the biggest changes first.

As he says, plastic elimination should be regarded as a long journey, not a quick trip, which is why our campaign has a five-year target.

Guiding the industry towards a single-use plastic-free and more sustainable future will be hugely challenging, particularly due to the diverse nature of this sector and the massive period of uncertainty we face, thanks to Brexit. However, it is a challenge we are determined to meet.

Together we can make positive changes and we look forward to being able to help the industry communicate and measure their savings in a useful way to enable us all to improve our carbon footprint.

Jane Longhurst is chief executive of the Meetings Industry Association (mia) - the largest association for the meetings industry for the UK and Ireland.

Hotels can join the initiative by signing the #20PercentLess pledge on the MIA website here.

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