Field: Waste reduction
Global Technical function: Consumption measuring, Informing, Providing tailored training
Technical Function Unit: Impact assessment, Providing support (advise/consultancy), Raising consumer awareness, Setting up a sustainable strategy
Geographic Area: Cyprus

Plastic waste reduction scheme for sustainable tourism in Cyprus

A sustainability charity teamed up with a tourism company to help reduce plastic waste in the Cyprus by setting up a sustainable strategy in hotels. Changes such as no longer giving out bottled water, or straws, resulted in a large reduction in the amount of plastic waste generated, in addition to positive impacts on both costs and guest satisfaction. 

Environmental impact reductionThe challenge:

Cyprus faces a number of challenges related to waste management. 88% of all waste ends up in landfill, rather than being recycled or reused, and waste generation per capita is also very high (468kg per year). Waste generation was found to be considerably higher in tourist areas (679kg), which are mostly populated with hotels.

The measure:

In 2011, a collaborative project was launched aiming to reduce plastic waste generation in hotels within the resorts of Paphos and Ayia Napa/Protaras. By making a number of operational changes the objective was a 10% plastic waste reduction in the participating hotels, while ensuring that guest comfort was not compromised.

The project was initiated by the Travel Foundation, a sustainable tourism charity, who worked in partnership with a large industry player Thomas Cook. In total 28 hotels took part in the action, inspired by a successful pilot undertaken by three hotels and five self-catering properties the previous year.

Regional co-ordinators managed the project in each of the resorts, providing support to the hotels to identify suitable initiatives and providing training to staff. The actions carried out included:

  • Replacing one-use plastic cups with multi-use durable cups around the pool area
  • Replacing bottled water with drinking water dispensers and durable cups
  • Purchasing cleaning materials in bulk and using refillable dispensers
  • Providing straws only when requested from hotel guests
  • Changing plastic liners only when soiled

The regional co-ordinators then carried out an impact assessment, based on the new consumption measurement of each hotel, and guest satisfaction levels. This showed that the environmental impact reduction was significant, with the hotels consuming on average 31% less plastic. On top of this more than 1000 hotel staff received training, and over €100,000 of cost savings were realised. Hotel guests were also satisfied with the changes, with 98% seeing it as a positive action.

Lessons learnt:

The project showed the importance of obtaining the buy-in of senior hotel staff. Those hotels who were most invested in the project achieved substantially better results – the best performing hotel reduced plastic use by almost 70%. This buy-in was obtained more readily by involving a large tour operator such as Thomas Cook in the project.

The project was successful in demonstrating that significant reductions can be made in the disposal of plastic from hotels with very little financial outlay and generating considerable financial savings for the businesses involved, and without compromising guest experience. In fact, by pro-actively raising consumer awareness and informing guests about the project, it became a successful public relations action for many of the hotels, with 56% of guests saying the project made them feel more positive about Thomas Cook.

Further deployment:

The individual actions demonstrated during the project are in themselves simple and can be easily replicated. More challenging is to engage with the correct stakeholders, in this case hotel managers. TRL 9.