by Matt Alderton | June 06, 2018
Plastic is cheap, versatile, durable, convenient, and disposable. But it's also extremely hard on the environment. For that reason, Spanish hotelier Meliá Hotels International has decided to eliminate single-use plastics in all of its hotels worldwide, Executive Vice President and CEO Gabriel Escarrer announced today during the company's general shareholders' meeting.

According to Escarrer, Meliá's properties consumed more than 22 million plastic bottles in 2017 alone. The change -- which will replace plastic bottles, cups, bags, straws, and coasters with biodegradable or environmentally-friendly alternatives -- could therefore have a significant positive impact on the company's environmental footprint, removing from it more than 15 tons of carbon emissions every year.

"Great customer experiences have to be compatible with respect for the planet, and plastic pollution is a global challenge which affects all destinations," said Escarrer, who noted Meliá's long-standing commitment to environmental sustainability. "Combatting climate change and reducing emissions has been part of our strategy for years, with well-established energy efficiency programs in hotels and agreements with suppliers regarding the exclusive use of renewable energy, and was recently further ratified by the company assuming the commitments defined at the Paris Climate Summit."

Escarrer said fighting climate change is about not only being a good corporate citizen, but also running a good business; four of the five biggest risks to the travel and tourism industry over the next decade -- including extreme weather events, natural disasters, and water shortages -- are related to climate change, he noted, citing the World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report. "The tourism business depends to a large extent on the sustainability of destinations, something of which we are very aware at Meliá as an international leader in resort hotels."

Single-use plastics are expected to be replaced at Meliá hotels before the end of 2018.

"Great customer experiences have to be compatible with respect for the planet," concluded Escarrer, who added: "The business world, institutions and society in general has to get involved and work together in combatting climate change and tackling other major global challenges."

Meliá isn't the only global hotelier targeting plastics: Last month, Hilton announced that it will remove plastic straws from its 650 managed properties by the end of the year as part of a new goal to cut its global environmental impact in half by 2030.