Houston, Texas—Benchmark announced plans to reduce its use of plastics in all 80 of its luxury hotels, resorts, and conference centers starting in 2019. The project, Single Use Plastic Reduction, will combine technology, policies and procedures, the introduction of sustainable products, and a messaging program to educate hotel staff and guests as to the importance of the initiative.
“Benchmark is targeting three items first—cocktail picks, coffee stirrers, and especially, plastic straws,” said Patrick Berwald, Benchmark’s vice president of food and beverage. “It’s just the beginning of our journey into sustainability in all areas of food and beverage.”
Used throughout hotels, plastic straws appear not only in bars and restaurants, but at meetings, special events, room service, and in more casual food outlets such as Grab n’ Go and informal outlets at golf courses, pools, beaches, and spas. Last year, Benchmark properties used 2.8 million plastic straws, 1.7 million plastic stirrers, and 120,000 plastic cocktail picks. As an interim effort until all plastic straws are replaced with paper, Benchmark properties are providing straws only on request. Future efforts will address other unsustainable items such as pizza boxes, Styrofoam, and plastic coffee lids.
“Benchmark includes 80 hotels and conference centers under four brand names: Benchmark Resorts & Hotels, Gemstone Collection, Benchmark Conference Centers, and etc.venues, with over 120 food and beverage outlets,” Patrick Berwald said. “We are starting with 42 hotels and resorts domestically and expect to expand from there.”
The hospitality industry is making a significant effort to address this problem and that results in a high demand for sustainable products. Benchmark has secured a supplier that will provide the required number of items including paper straws that are BPA- and chemical-free, and products made from renewable sources such as bamboo and wood. In addition to availability, hotels must ensure proper disposal of these goods and introduce quality control of the products and their use.
“The success of Benchmark’s Single Use Plastic Reduction initiative depends on a carefully crafted messaging program that will reach all employees, suppliers and most important, our guests,” says Patrick Berwald. “The communications will use a variety of digital technologies, staff training programs and a public relations campaign to disseminate the message and ensure positive participation.”