The owner of Holiday Inn has become the first hotel group to ditch plastic bathroom miniatures

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Tourists are often attracted to a holiday destination because of its pristine beaches, fresh air and clear sea water. But that does not mean that the travel and tourism industry, as a whole, is very green. Paper published in Change of Nature, a scientific journal, last year estimated that the travel and tourism industry produces approximately 8% of the greenhouse gas emissions produced by humans each year. That figure included everything from the kerosene used by transatlantic flights to the electricity consumed by hotels and the energy used to make coffee to make souvenirs for travelers to take home. In theory, therefore, it should be good news that the Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG), which owns the Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza brands, promised on July 30 to remove small bottles of shampoo, conditioner , lotion and the like – and it is now. using over 200m per year – from all 5,600 of its hotels by 2021. It is the first major hotel group to commit to doing so. The hope seems to be that by reducing the amount of plastic waste produced, less will end up in the sea where it will harm marine wildlife. But environmentally minded travelers should be suspicious of the greenness of all such promises.

IHG plans to replace the small bottles of shampoo and the like with larger alternatives. They have also previously pledged to ban plastic straws in their hotels. And many of their brands are replacing plastic water bottles with ones made of glass. There is some logic to abandoning the use of smaller plastic containers. A recent study by Direct Line, an insurer, found that standard-sized bottles for products such as shampoo and toothpaste contained twice as much liquid per gram of plastic packaging used as small ones. is small enough to be allowed through airport security checks. . Larger bottles are also much easier for cleaners to refill than smaller ones, which are more likely to be thrown away after their first use.

But if IHG changes lead to greater use of other materials, such as metal and glass, the trend could accelerate climate change. This is because other materials release much more carbon dioxide during production than plastics do. Glass bottles, metal cans and cotton bags are generally not used, even though they may be much more sustainable than their single-use plastic counterparts, to make up for the extra emissions used to make them. A study last year by the Danish government found that reusable plastic bags, for example, produce 52 times more carbon emissions than disposable ones, and for cotton ones, 7,100 times more. Aluminum cans – which have recently replaced plastic water bottles on Royal Carribean cruise ships – can produce six times as much carbon dioxide as a plastic bottle of the same size, and then 50% more to recycle each trip Single-use plastics may be out of fashion right now with green groups. But this may not always be the case in the future.

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