Room for change

With landfill costs rising, the hospitality industry needs to reduce the amount of waste it produces. John Haven looks at how one hotel chain set about doing so


"Hilton UK & Ireland is serious about the environment," says Wolfgang M. Neumann - and well he might, for as area president of one of the world's most prominent hotel chains, he's responsible for 78 Hiltons, comprising over 15,000 bedrooms and employing 15,000 staff.

That makes for a lot of waste - and a lot of expense.
Over the last year, landfill tax has risen by 20% to £18 per tonne, and there are £3 per year increases set for the next five years. Notwithstanding Hilton's laudable commitment to the environment, financial considerations provide a powerful incentive to reduce waste.

That's why, according to Neumann, "We are implementing a long-term change of culture, not just a policy."

This culture change has been focused on two major areas: training and waste disposal.
Training came in the form of the Environmental Sustainability Training Programme, a huge campaign to re-educate staff in the ways of responsible waste management.
Prior to appointing an environmentally-responsible waste management service, Hilton set clear objectives. They wanted a service that would allow all of their UK and Irish hotels to increase recycling levels, while reducing waste and directing waste from landfill - specifically, they aimed to reduce waste sent to landfill by 25% over the next five years.
The choice is made

In December last year, they appointed Environmental Waste Controls Plc (EWC) to manage all waste and recycling activities across the group. EWC has 400-plus clients, including local authorities and business concerns such as Barclays and the QVC shopping channel.

EWC's waste and recycling specialists undertook a comprehensive study of Hilton's waste management activities across the group, and the result was a tailored solution providing a single point of management for the entire Hilton UK & Ireland group. Through a single monthly payment, Hilton now ensures compliance with all hygiene and health & safety legislation, and ongoing management of an economically- and environmentally-responsible waste and recycling programme.

Comprehensive recycling facilities have been introduced and enhanced in all the hotels. It is hoped that these facilities, taken together with the aforementioned staff training programme, will make Hilton's ambitious recycling targets achievable.

Recycling, however, can never be the sole solution. Another powerful weapon in the struggle is compacting. Highly efficient compactors have been installed at the majority of hotels, resulting in reduced volumes of waste and leak-proof waste management. The compactors are collected only when 80% full, rather than on set collection days, resulting in reduced transport costs for the waste and reduced vehicle emissions.

In order for all this to work, there has to be good communication - and crucially, Hilton has a single point of contact for its complete waste management service. This allows a fast, efficient, co-ordinated response.

Keeping an eye out
It is also, of course, important for management to be able to assess the efficacy of the new system - and Hilton is able to monitor it via the EWC website. Facility managers can access their individual accounts to arrange collections, monitor volumes of waste, and view landfill charges. The new service also provides ongoing contract management and expert advice on all aspects of recycling and waste management, allowing Hilton to develop its waste activities in line with new legislation and technologies.

Staff training, the installation of high-quality machinery and a comprehensive waste management programme - these things don't come cheap. In fact, the chain is investing £7 million over the five-year span of the plan. They do say, though, that you have to speculate to accumulate - and a year into Hilton's five-year plan, it would seem that they have cause for opitimism. According to Neumann, "We expect to meet our target of reducing utility consumption across the region by 10% by the end of 2006."

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