10 ways to increase sustainable hospitality

In 2015, RMIT's Watch My Waste Report highlighted that at least 40% of food purchased by the hospitality industry ends up in the bin.[1] There is mounting pressure from the public for the hospitality industry (including hotels, pubs/bars, cafes, restaurants and fast food outlets) to invest in sustainable business practices. Future Food, Australia’s global food and hospitality consultants, even counted sustainability as one of the key trends for 2018.[2]

The pressure is being applied across the board, from major global brands to small local venues. McDonald’s, arguably the world's most recognised hospitality brand chain, said in its 2019 earnings report that “The ongoing relevance of our brand may depend on the success of our sustainability initiatives, which require systemwide coordination and alignment. If we are not effective in addressing social and environmental responsibility matters or achieving relevant sustainability goals, consumer trust in our brand may suffer.”[3] This has led the company to implement new global practices such as reduction of Styrofoam and switching to packaging made from recycled materials.[4]

On a smaller scale, local pubs and cafés are doing what they can – in particular, ditching plastic straws and opting for paper straws when required.[5]

Large or small, there are many ways the hospitality industry can improve its waste management processes and support Australia's National Waste Policy Vision of a circular economy. We have highlighted 10 ways the hospitality industry can implement sustainable business practices. 

1.       Plastic straws just have to go

A no-brainer for many consumers and hospitality venues is to ditch the plastic straws.  Whilst the movement to ban plastic straws was already in place, it gained global traction in late 2017 with the release of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II.[6] This caused global outcry and even the Queen of England demanded a ban of plastic straws in the royal palace.[7] A global survey highlighted that 9 out of 10 people support banning plastic straws in bars and restaurants.[8] Although the alternate paper straws are more expenses, some hoteliers say they are still economically better off, with consumers opting not to use straws at all. One owner said that although the cost of paper straws was four times the plastic, they were using only 20 per cent of the volume. Ditching the plastic straw is a win, win, win situation.

2.       Encourage reusable coffee cups

Disposable coffee cups are an enigma as many people assume they can be recycled. However, the vast majority contain plastic, resulting in as many as 99.75% of disposal coffee cups globally NOT being recycled.[9] In 2016, it was estimated that that Australians used 1 billion disposable coffee cups annually, and more than 90% were not recycled.[10] A more sustainable approach is to encourage customers to bring their own reusable cups. This can be done by offering a discount for coffee, free upsize or simply highlighting the environmental factors. Cafés can even sell their own reusable cups for additional income!

3.       Buy local produce and reduce your food miles

The benefit of reducing food miles has been contentious over the years in Australia as we rely on food exports to prosper as a country. However, there are many benefits for business owners to focus on sourcing local goods. These include: reducing carbon dioxide emissions from food freight, improving local food economies and increasing national food security.[11] From a branding point of view, consumers are also in favour of locally sourced goods, with 72% of Australian’s preferring homegrown produce.[12]

4.       BYO containers

A new growing trend in the takeaway industry is allowing consumers to bring their own containers to take away food. This reduces the need for both plastic bags and single-use plastic containers. The Australian website https://trashlesstakeaway.com.au highlights all the stores across the country where you can BYO containers. (If you know a BYO container venue that is not on here, you can contact the site directly to add their details.)

5.       Sort out food wastage

Food wastage is a major concern for the hospitality industry. In Australia, around a third of landfill waste bins routinely contain recyclables or green waste. Venues should establish their own practices to ensure they recycle food correctly. This could be as simple as establishing a composting system or working with a local charity to donate leftovers.  For venues that are in a state with a green recycling bin, make sure you know your local area rules when it comes to disposing of green waste.

 6.       Use eco-friendly products at events

Large events and festivals can be a great opportunity for local venues to show their commitment to sustainability.  Increasingly, people are opting for eco-friendly cutlery and crockery options to replace the old-style plastic plates. Venues can also consider incorporating sustainable decoration to replace latex balloons and plastic accessories. For more ideas, you can visit the Lenzo blog here: https://www.lenzo.com.au/blog/how-to-throw-a-sustainable-party

7.       Increase vegetarian options on the menu

Between 2012 and 2016, the number of Australian adults whose diet is all or almost all vegetarian rose from 1.7 million people (or 9.7% of the population) to almost 2.1 million (11.2%).[13] The trend, in part, is due to consumers wanting to consume more sustainable produce. One global report argues that not eating meat can be the single biggest thing a person can do to reduce their carbon footprint.[14] Increasing vegetarian options on the menu will not only expand a venue’s customer base but also decrease the venue’s own carbon footprint. 

8.       Establish a process for your container deposit system

Across Australia, almost every state now has a container deposit system. For the hospitality industry, a simple way to increase sustainability is setting up in-store recycling systems for employees and patrons to use.  A great way of giving back can be to ‘donate’ the used (eligible) containers to community groups as a way of fundraising. Check out your local container deposit scheme here: https://www.containerdepositsystems.com.au/articles/the-new-state-of-container-deposit-schemes-in-australia

9.       Implement energy saving technologies

Technology continues to advance when it comes to energy saving efficiencies. This can benefit business owners by supporting sustainability goals and reducing power bills at the same time! A simple way to begin this process is to replace old lighting with efficient LED bulbs. To incentivise business owners to undertake energy saving actions, many state governments have grants and funding on offer. See if you are eligible here: https://www.business.gov.au/assistance

10.   Develop your own waste policy to share with customers

Numerous reports showcase what many know: consumers prefer sustainable companies.[15][16] Being sustainable can be equally about doing the right thing and increasing the venue’s bottom line. A way to showcase this to customers is to develop your own waste policy and share your goals and achievements. For inspiration, you may want to review the 2018 Australia Waste Policy and see how your business can support.

Know other ways or examples venue’s are implementing sustainable hospitality? If yes, let us know!


About Container Deposit Systems

Container Deposit Systems was formed with a vision to oversee the implementation of improved operational practices in recycling facilities.  The company offers a range of services to recycling depot facilities to drive productivity improvements and transition traditional recycling facilities into modern technically advanced operators.

The company achieve this through patented technologies which deliver manufacturing automation to auto-sort materials via a highly sensitive multi-sensor integration.  Systems integrations enable facilities to further gain efficiencies through workflows, materials handling, logistic processes, facility layout and design, customer interaction and data acquisition and management. 

Container Deposit Systems technologies are designed and manufactured in Australia with local partners Sage Automation and Macweld Engineering.

For more information, please contact us directly.  



[1] http://watchmywaste.com.au/november-2015-interim-data/
[2] https://futurefood.com.au/blog/2017/12/12/2018s-food-beverage-and-hospitality-trends
[3] https://qz.com/1538192/mcdonalds-biggest-obstacle-to-being-sustainable-is-its-own-business-model/
[4] https://www.businessinsider.com.au/mcdonalds-ditches-foam-cups-packaging-2018-1?r=US&IR=T
[5] https://www.adelaidereview.com.au/food-and-drink/plastic-straws-adelaide/
[6] https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2018-08-29/blue-planet-2-plastic-waste-final-episode/
[7] https://www.businessinsider.com/queen-bans-plastic-straws-after-david-attenborough-documentary-2018-2/?r=AU&IR=T
[8] https://medium.com/street-voice/final-straw-for-plastic-pollution-8201ecd0c5f0
[9] https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-43739043
[10] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-03/takeaway-coffee-cups-piling-up-in-landfill/7136926
[11] https://www.sbs.com.au/shows/foodinvestigators/listings/detail/i/1/article/2941/Food-Miles
[12] https://www.foodprocessing.com.au/content/food-design-research/news/72-of-australians-prefer-locally-sourced-products-511606093
[13] http://www.roymorgan.com/findings/vegetarianisms-slow-but-steady-rise-in-australia-201608151105
[14] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth
[15] https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2018/sustainability-sells-linking-sustainability-claims-to-sales.html
[16] https://www.unilever.com/news/press-releases/2017/report-shows-a-third-of-consumers-prefer-sustainable-brands.html