Are Mini Shampoo Bottles the New Plastic Straw?


Now that the hotel industry has largely embraced bans on plastic straws, one major hotel group aims to eliminate the next set of plastic targets: mini bottles of shampoo, conditioner, lotion and the like.

On Tuesday, July 30, IHG will announce it plans to replace all “bathroom miniatures” with bulk supplies across all of its 17 brands, including Holiday Inn Hotels and Resorts and InterContinental Hotels & Resorts. The decision will affect 843,000 guest rooms in more than 5,600 hotels during 2021.

“Today’s customers and colleagues expect us to have less impact on the environment,” said Keith Barr, the chief executive of IHG. He called the company’s plastic straw ban, which was announced in October 2018, to be a first step in a wider sustainability program. “This, to me, was the next logical step.”

While IHG is the first company to issue the brand-wide ban, many hotels already use refillable dispensers of personal care products, often associated with affordable hotels, rather than single-use items.

“Budget hotels have always been more likely to have bulk shampoo and conditioner dispensers in the shower, and some also have them by the sink. The reason is cost,” said Henry H. Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and the president of Atmosphere Research Group. “It costs them less to install and service these bulk dispensers than providing individual cakes of soap and bottles of shampoo, conditioner and the like.”

Mr. Barr acknowledged the savings in costs to hotel operations, but framed it as a win-win that, “makes environmental and commercial sense,” he said.

The hurdle may be convincing an InterContinental guest to accept a bulk dispenser in the bath as better than the mini bottle of high-end shampoo. Some luxury travel companies have been moving in that direction. The luxury cruise line Lindblad Expeditions uses refillable dispensers for soap, shampoo and other liquid products on all of its ships, including the upcoming National Geographic Endurance, launching in April 2020. The Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi, which opened July 1, offers Salvatore Ferragamo bathroom amenities in refillable marble containers. In Namibia, andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, opening in October, plans to put bath products in bulk glass bottles.

Several IHG brands already offer bulk bathroom amenities, including the high-end Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, which IHG acquired earlier this year, where bathrooms are fitted with refillable ceramic dispensers. It also furnishes bathroom products in bulk at its wellness-centered Even, mid-scale Avid and new upscale Voco hotels.



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