“Plastic items in international resort hotels like ours are disappearing fast … and good riddance,” said the friendly concierge who welcomed us to the Pullman Resort this week for the 54th International Research Group on Wood Protection conference.
Yanou Rijkers was happy to announce that room key cards, along with many other service items at the hotel, were made entirely of wood or wood fibre.
“This all part of a global push by international hotel chains to ditch synthetics for more sustainable products,” said Yanou who came from her home in The Netherlands to “join the amazing tourism hub in a tropical paradise”.
The initiative marshals the tourism sector to address the root causes of plastic pollution as signatories, businesses, governments and other tourism stakeholders commit to lead by example in shifting toward a circular economy, which means reusing and recycling products and materials, so no waste goes to landfill.
The initiative aims to curb the flow of departing guests who inadvertently fail to return their room keys only to discard them later. Shangri-La Sydney says it lost over 1000 plastic room key cards a week.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature says that at least 14 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean annually and that annual plastic water pollution could reach 53 million tonnes by 2030.
Now, in one year alone, more than 108 million plastic items and packaging, weighing 804 metric tonnes, equivalent to 27 large shipping containers, have been eliminated by hotel chains that would have phased out more if not for the pandemic.
Many of the plastic items eliminated and replaced by wood fibres were in food and beverage services, bathrooms, service areas, and rooms.
The Pullman Resort Hotel in Cairns is part of the Accor Group that operates 55 hotel brands in more than 1500 locations, with some in southeast Asia, including Raffles, Fairmont and Sofitel.
In one year, Accor eliminated 71.6 million plastic items, amounting to 430 metric tonnes, with items such as toothbrushes, combs and razors with the swing to wood fibre.
The hotel chain has also trained staff on waste management ahead of a global plan to carry out more recycling and composting. The goal is to recycle 65% of waste.
The wooden cards operate the same way as the plastic alternatives and contain both the RFID chip and magnetic stripe along with signature panel, scratch-off panel and bar code needed to activate door locks.