California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

Waste Reduction in Hotels and Motels

The lodging industry in California, with over 396,000 guest rooms, produces approximately 600,000 tons of garbage every year! Hoteliers have many opportunities to reduce waste by establishing waste prevention and recycling programs and by purchasing recycled products. Besides reducing waste and saving money, these actions can increase employee morale and customer satisfaction.

Getting Started

  • Management should adopt an environmental policy to reflect how the company sees itself in relation to the environment, neighbors, and the people it employs and serves. Chains with multiple locations may want to encourage each hotel to evaluate and establish its own program.
  • For your program to be successful, management should appropriate the necessary staff and funds to run your environmental program, and offer training to staff.
  • Promote your program and successes to guests and conference attendees through your advertising.
  • Conduct a waste evaluation to identify waste prevention ideas and estimate the amount of recyclable materials generated at your hotel. Chances are, you can use many of the following ideas, which are being successfully used by many hotels and motels, and can help you reduce waste and save money!

Waste Prevention

Waste prevention means not creating waste in the first place. Waste that is not created does not have to be disposed, which saves money.

  • Minimize waste by replacing disposable room amenities with refillable or reusable substitutes.
  • Establish purchasing guidelines to encourage the use of durable, repairable equipment, and high-quality, reusable products such as linen and tableware.
  • Donate soap and toiletries to local shelters.
  • Distribute restaurant condiments from behind the counter, rather than in single-service packets.
  • Donate unserved food to local food banks. California's "Good Samaritan" law protects the donor from liability if the food is properly stored and handled. Produce scraps can be composted on site, or donated to local farmers for composting or animal feed.
  • Reuse old linens as aprons or towels, or donate them to local charities.
  • Donate old furniture and equipment to institutions or charity.
  • Purchase cleaning supplies in bulk to minimize packaging and save money. For example, concentrated cleaning solutions can be diluted on site and dispensed in reusable pump-spray bottles.
  • Ask your vendors and suppliers to provide supplies that are not overpackaged. Ask them to take back excess packaging for reuse.
  • Upgrade lighting and get free energy advice for your business through the California Climate Credit program. You don’t have to do anything to get the credit, but you can use it to help yourself save energy and support California’s energy and climate goals. Learn all about the California Climate Credit program.
  • Practice grasscycling, that is, the natural recycling of grass by leaving clippings on the lawn to decompose. They quickly release valuable nutrients back into the soil. Have groundskeepers mulch or compost landscape wastes.

Le Chateau Montbello in Quebec, Canada has constructed a composting site, which will be used to fertilize and mulch its herb garden.

The Ritz-Carlton in Pasadena makes aprons and napkins from stained, worn linens. By also determining just the right amount of chemicals to use in laundering, the hotel saved $45,000 in one year!

The Seattle Sheraton Hotel and Towers donated 2000 telephones from guest rooms to a local housing organization, which made them available to low-income tenants.

Hotels in Florida have saved up to 50 percent in waste disposal costs by implementing aggressive waste reduction efforts. These savings come from reduced garbage hauling costs and the sale of recyclable materials.


Hotels and motels generate large amounts of highly recyclable materials, such as office paper, newspaper, corrugated cardboard, plastics, metals, and glass. Work with your waste hauler or recycler to arrange the details of your recycling program.

  • Consider recycling materials, such as glass, cans, cardboard, plastic, and cooking grease from the restaurant.
  • Work with suppliers to minimize the use of materials that are difficult to recycle, such waxed cardboard.
  • Collect old telephone books, magazines, newspapers, beverage containers, etc., from guest rooms. Put out recycling containers for guests to use or have cleaning staff collect them.
  • Recycle office materials. Examples are computer and bond paper, beverage containers, copier and printer cartridges.
  • Recycle motor oils, antifreeze, paint, etc., used by groundskeeping and maintenance staff.

Buy Recycled Products

The collection of recyclable materials is only the first step of the process we call recycling. Interesting new products are being manufactured from your recyclables and turning up in the marketplace. When you buy goods with recycled content, your purchases help to create a demand for materials collected in recycling programs. Remember to ask about a product's "postconsumer content." This means the product was made from materials that were used and recycled by consumers, rather than from manufacturing wastes.

Review your existing purchasing policies to assure they do not exclude buying goods with recycled content. Remove discriminatory standards that prevent the purchase of recycled products. State in bid packets that your organization expects vendors to supply products with recycled content.

Waste Reduction at Meetings, Conferences, and Expos

Conferences and trade shows are often overlooked as a major source of waste generated at hotels. The average trade show attendee takes home up to ten pounds of paper, and the typical expo generates the equivalent of 170 trees in waste paper! Hotels and meeting planners can reduce waste by planning low-waste meetings. Work with the corporations and associations holding the meetings, and urge them to try some of these ideas:

  • Announce to participating corporations, associations, and attendees, through mailings, that waste prevention and recycling will be taking place.
  • Urge attendees to reduce waste in their guest rooms as well. For instance, a guest may choose not to have linens and towels replaced every day.
  • If plastic badge holders are used, place collection bins at the meeting to collect them for reuse at another conference.
  • Don't offer wasteful gifts and premiums that attendees are likely to just throw away after the conference. Give something useful, such as commuter mugs with the corporation logo.
  • Ask trade show and expo vendors to limit the amount of material they bring to the show floor to that which they plan to distribute. (Some hotels are asking vendors to remove the materials, rather than picking up the tab for disposal or recycling.)
  • Use recycled paper products and plan for recycling by placing recycling containers at all meeting sites.
  • Print promotional materials on both sides of the paper, and minimize the use of glossy paper.

For More Help:

Publication #500-94-029

If you have questions or want to share information with us, we would be glad to hear from you! Please contact us at the mailbox listed at the bottom of this page.

Last updated: June 18, 2015
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