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Glass bottles, paper straws check in as Hotel chains go plastic-free



The drive against plastic is gaining momentum with leading hotel chains adopting a slew of measures — from opting for paper straws and glass bottles to restricting food takeaway packaging to cardboard — to eliminate its use even as more states consider plastic ban.

Most restaurant chains and associations, however, sought more clarity from the government on appropriate substitutes, and said eliminating plastic completely would take time due to lack of commercially viable alternatives. They may not have much time going by the speed at which states are looking to control plastic waste that’s polluting land and sea at a drastic rate.

After Maharashtra imposed a ban on single use plastic, Uttar Pradesh has ordered a ban on the use of plastic cups, plastic glasses, and polythene from July 15. Odisha this week announced a complete ban on plastic use in several parts of the state starting from October 2.

Hotel chains such as Hilton, Hyatt and ITC Hotels said they have adopted measures such as replacing plastic straws with paper, restricting food takeaway packaging to cardboard, replacing inroom amenities with paper and cardboard, replacing plastic water bottles with glass, and eliminating all plastic picks and swizzle sticks, to cut plastic use. Hilton NSE -4.00 % said it plans to become plastic free across all its hotels in the country by 2030. “We have already removed plastic straws from all our managed properties in India,” said Jatin Khanna, VP, operations at Hilton India. “Simultaneously, we are at different stages of the process to remove use of plastic in any form from rooms, F&B, operations, front and back of the house and other locations in our properties,” he said.

Hilton will also remove plastic water bottles from meetings and events in hotels across the country by 2020 as part of its global ‘meet with purpose’ programme to offer socially and environmentally responsible meetings, Khanna said. Hyatt properties are stopping use of all single use plastic items, and opting for cloth laundry bags and bio degradable garbage bags. It has stopped usage of water bottles below 200 ml at Hyatt Regency Pune and is using paper straws and glass water bottles at F&B venues at Andaz Delhi. At Hyatt Regency Mumbai, pet bottles used at the restaurants have been replaced with glass bottles, and plastic spoons and forks used for takeaways are replaced with those made of corn starch.

Dipak Haksar, chief executive at ITC Hotels and WelcomHotels, said his chain has been adapting sustainable practices for over two decades now. In 2012, the company replaced complimentary bottled water at its restaurants with glass bottles. All ITC luxury hotels will replace plastic straws with paper straws by October 2018 and are moving to 100% compostable garbage bags by December this year. “The initiatives we have implemented will ensure elimination of the use of plastic material at ITC Hotels by approximately 24 tons per year,” he said.

Globally, chains like Starbucks and Hyatt this week announced they are moving to eliminate plastic straws for of environment friendly alternatives. In India, though, restaurants are struggling to reduce plastic use. Dilip Datwani, president of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India, said there is no information on what substitutes could be used in place of plastic. “We will hold a seminar for our members this month and are trying to get an appointment from the municipal corporation so that they can enlighten members on what is allowed and what is not,” he said.

Jubilant FoodWorks, franchisee for international quick service restaurants such as Domino’s Pizza and Dunkin’ Donuts, however, said it has implemented eco-friendly measures at all its restaurants in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Chandigarh. “We do not use plastic glasses, carry bags and cutlery (spoon and fork) in these restaurants, and have shifted to biodegradable alternatives made of paper and poly lactic acid (PLA)… and we are in the process of proactively rolling most of these measures at our other restaurants across the country,” a company spokesperson said.

Roshan Banan, MD at Ocean Pearl Hotels that runs Sagar Ratna chain of restaurants, said an overhaul cannot be brought about overnight. “We were using cloth bags for our delivery anyway and we are moving to recyclable biodegradable plastics in our packaging, but it is work in progress. It has to be commercially viable. Everything cannot be done overnight,” he said. Anurag Katriar, CEO at Degustibus Hospitality that runs restaurants such as Indigo Delicatessen and Tote on the Turf, pointed out that viable alternatives for plastic are limited, and in most cases they are in trial stages.

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