How better waste, recycling management can help cut costs

As states begin to move forward with reopening, many hospitality groups are grappling with new regulations while also identifying and re-evaluating operations that may have been put on hold or shifted during the pandemic.

For hotel groups whose footprints expand beyond one state, this becomes a more significant issue: juggling protocols in areas that are all in different stages of reopening with additional pressure mounting to cut costs where possible. 

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As the economy slowly begins to right itself, hotels can look toward an unexpected way to save on operating costs: their trash.

Challenges for Multistate Management

With numerous day-to-day operational duties pulling employees in every direction, managing a variety of waste vendor services can add to the overall stress of the job.

Hotel management has become increasingly more difficult due to COVID-19 and where states stand regarding various travel and tourism safety measures. If one employee is handling the operations of multiple properties in various states, they may be working to communicate and coordinate with several different waste and recycling haulers at the same time, leading to increased labor, paperwork and stress.

For example, some states that have reopened popular tourist attractions may see a boost in the hospitality space, while others that remain more conservative may experience less occupancy. Continuing the same waste operations as they existed before the pandemic, for two very different scenarios, is a hit to the company's bottom line.

Consolidating Vendors and Costs

Working with a third-party provider can help consolidate a hotel’s services into one single point of contact for more seamless, and sustainable, waste stream management. Consolidating these services with an appropriate vendor also means that the hotel management not only has a single touchpoint but is also only working with one vendor and receiving one monthly invoice—for greater simplicity and peace of mind.

A provider like this would manage all critical aspects of the waste program, helping to trim costs, flagging and removing hidden fees, and providing reports to improve sustainability, alleviating a number of time-consuming tasks. These waste consultants are also trained to find additional sources of price bloat and can make recommendations as needed. While it may seem strange to hire someone to save money, those who specialize in waste and recycling can better identify overages and negotiate better market prices on a hotel's behalf.

Some common waste charges to look out for include:

  • Dry run/trip fee: A dry run or trip fee occurs when a hauler comes to service a container, and it is either empty or unable to be serviced due to an obstacle blocking the way.
  • Extra yardage: Haulers are unable to legally transport a load weighing more than 10 tons. If a container is overflowing and unable to close, it is likely filled over its standard capacity and will not be serviced.
  • Extra pickup: If an additional service is required within the usual pickup schedule, an extra pickup charge will be applied. Choosing the right container size based on how much waste a hotel generates is an easy way to avoid this fee.

In addition to uncovering extra expenses on a bill, the right vendor can work closely with hotels to integrate technology into the process, making data-based recommendations on how waste can be reduced, and sustainability can be increased, now and into the future.

Benefits for Peak Occupancy

Given the insights above, it's also essential to understand the general sustainability woes that accompany the hospitality industry regularly.

The average hotel guest produces 2.5 pounds of trash per day, with 50-60 percent of it being recyclable. However, every year in the U.S., businesses discard $38 billion of recyclables in landfills. The large, diverse volumes of waste coming from hotel rooms, meeting centers and restaurants can make efficient recycling seem like an afterthought.

Most of this could be alleviated with an updated approach to recycling, which is easier than it seems when you have the right partner. Single stream recycling, which involves combining all recyclable materials, usually in one container, during the initial process, is the most popular method for corporations. However, because of contamination, inefficient sorting, and consumer error, 80 percent of recycled materials end up in the landfill.

Thankfully, a better way exists. Clean-stream recycling, or multistream recycling, consists of separating recyclables into different containers at the source of waste instead of a single bin. While extremely effective—hospitality properties recycle an average of 8.6 tons more per year after switching to clean-stream—the program can be an involved process to build internally from the ground up. That’s why it is recommended to bring in a provider to assist in the setup and success of a hotel’s clean-stream recycling approach.

On top of the overall cost-benefit, focusing on sustainability initiatives is another way to entice customers and shareholders. According to a recent study, by 2025, millennials will be spending $600 billion each year in the U.S. and representing $2.75 trillion in spending power globally. This generation also is more willing to use its spending power with companies who have a focus on corporate responsibility: 87 percent said they would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues.

As the hospitality industry looks to get back on its feet, there are many ways to contribute to the cost-saving efforts while not contributing added team stress. Approaching the issue with a thoughtful plan and the right vendors can make all the difference.

Graham Rihn is the founder and CEO of RoadRunner Recycling.