Nothing untoward on the beautiful pictures of your postcards? Let’s hope it lasts! Today, our Blue Planet is in danger: the giant open-air waste dumps are appearing in the oceans and on land. To what degree is tourism to blame for the appearance of these dumps? How can we promote cleaner tourism, more respectful of the environment, to protect our small corners of paradise? Here are a few answers.
A dump site planet
Humanity produces approximately 400 billion tonnes of waste per year. Dan Hoornweg, urban development specialist for the World Bank, believes that global waste production will triple by 2100. While the OECD countries should reach their peak waste production before 2050, the metropolises of emerging countries are faced with an exponential production: to mention only a few, the landfills of Laogang in Shanghai, Sudokwon in Seoul or Jardim Gramacho in Rio de Janeiro now receive over 10,000 tonnes of waste every day.
The World Bank believes that we already have all the tools and technologies we need to face the challenge of managing our waste, but that the current issue is finding the funding to implement the necessary solutions. The question of costs is thus very often the thornier one. For example, today, no country wants to pay to clean the floating islands of waste in the oceans, rightly called “plastic continents” as they are made up of nearly 270,000 tonnes of this oil-based material.
Maldives is an island nation and a paradise for the million tourists who holiday there every year. But in this archipelago in the Indian Ocean, one of the islands is an embarrassment. Nicknamed “Rubbish Island”, Thilafushi is nothing but a huge garbage patch where on average 330 tons of waste, mostly generated by tourism, are dumped every day. This waste, which is toxic, is incinerated in the open air and pollutes the entire area, poisoning the locals.
The tourism sector, which continues to grow, must be vigilant of its impact. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), explains that “in the absence of appropriate management and protection, and of investment to make the sector ‘greener’, the ecosystems and thousands of remarkable species will be endangered.” But optimistically, he adds that “the UNEP has identified tourism as one of the ten economic sectors most capable of contributing to the transition towards a green and sustainable economy.”
And the tourist sector has implemented very many initiatives aimed at accepting its responsibilities and ensuring its sustainability. Among them is bringing the tourists themselves into the loop, both for educational purposes and because they too, through their behaviour, have the power to make tourism a sustainable leisure activity! For instance, in April 2014 the Nepalese government decided that every tourist undertaking the ascent of Mount Everest must now come back down with 8 kg of waste. An ingenious idea, which will prevent having to close the Roof of the World, a matter under consideration a few years earlier in view of the alarming levels of pollution resulting from climbers’ waste.
In mankind’s struggle to reduce waste, businesses must of course play a part. In order to strengthen its waste management policy, Accorhotels decided to assess the quantity of waste generated by the establishments of its various brands. Each establishment is faced with three categories of waste: first, items such as packaging, light bulbs, complimentary goods, food, etc., which must be limited in terms of volume, particularly by involving the purchasing departments; then there is waste generated by construction and renovation activities, and finally that generated by the customers, for which the Group has implemented a sorting and recycling policy. The audit showed that, on average, each hotel produced 45 tonnes of waste per year and that 50% of this waste comes from catering (remains, food oils and fat).
The Group has already achieved the goal it had set itself under its PLANET 21 Sustainable Development programme: today, almost 90% of hotels recycle their waste. Their efforts are chiefly focused on products deemed to have the highest priority: toner and printer cartridges, batteries, compact fluorescent lights, paper and cardboard. This year, the theme of the PLANET 21 Day, which took place in late April, was precisely “How to generate less waste”. The day aimed to raise awareness among employees, customers and partners of the issues of the circular economy: nothing is thrown away, everything is transformed!
The hotels have also put in place many good practices based on the rule of the three “Rs”: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. For instance, to reduce waste, some of the Group’s hotels in Germany have replaced their plastic clothes bags by fabric bags. The second part of this rule, reuse, is perfectly illustrated by the Food for Thought initiative in Thailand: on the occasion of World Food Day on last October 16, eight hotels in Bangkok redistributed unconsumed food from the buffets to women and children of the slums. Finally, several other hotels in the group are involved in the Soap For Hope operation which recycles the soap bars that guests do not use up, for the benefit of disadvantaged populations.
In addition, Accorhotels sponsors the “Circul’R” project brainchild of two young French entrepreneurs, who set out to meet the participants of the circular economy in the four corners of the world, in order to share their initiatives and promote a waste-free world… Because, indisputably, the best type of waste remains the one that is not produced.
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