10 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste in Hotels, Cafes & Bars

I try to reduce my plastic and household waste as much as possible, but I find that when we go away on holiday, our throwaway society comes into force. It becomes even more evident when we vacation in the USA. I was astonished at how many single-use items are used in hospitality, so many items come wrapped in additional plastic too, and not just plastic straws – cups and lids for coffee, sugar, and stirrers in plastic wraps, individually wrapped coffee and tea bags, beakers in bathrooms, mini toiletries, plastic cutlery, the list goes on!

tea and coffee making display with single use creamers, sugars and tea bags

Of course, some hotels are getting on board the eco programme. Some Holiday Inns give reward points for not having room serviced daily. Most hotels now state that towels and sheets won’t be washed daily and some have liquid dispensers on the walls rather than individual bottles of shampoo and shower gel.

I have started to plan ahead and make a few adjustments to my packing so that I can be as eco-friendly abroad as I can at home. Here are 10 ways that will help you reduce waste when you visit hotels, cafes and bars.

1. Don’t ask for your room to be serviced every day.

2. Make use of the towel policy that many hotels now have – hang up to reuse.

3. Take your own soap and shampoo bars rather than use their individual liquid bottles. If you prefer liquid toiletries, take your own take in reusable travel bottles.

4. Rooms may have several bins. Only use one bin as maids will empty and rebag each bin irrespective of how much is in them.

5. Ask for cold drinks not to be served with plastic straws. Carry your own stainless steel straw if you really need one.

6. Carry your own bamboo or stainless steel cutlery instead of using the plastic ones that are served in many hotel breakfast rooms and fast food outlets. I take my own from home and keep it wrapped in a fabric wrap that I got from a previous flight amenity pack.

7. Take your own mug for use in hotel rooms and a travel mug for when you are on the move.

8. Take your own pack of teabags rather than using individually wrapped ones that hotels supply.

9. Often sugar comes with a creamer, stirrer and napkin all in one plastic wrap. If you only need sugar, take the rest of the contents home instead of throwing away. Homeless shelters or community groups will be able to use them. Schools and crafters may be able to use the plastic stirrers for crafts. You could even put the plastic rubbish into ecobricks.

10. Better still take some sugar or sweeteners with you.


If you leave reviews on TripAdvisor, Booking.com or your own blog mention ways in which you think they could improve, give them an ECO CREDENTIAL SCORE or even ask to speak to the manager while you are there to ask them about their waste policy. There may be laws in place in certain states or counties that dictate policies beyond the hotel’s control.

I did ask why one chain hotel why there was so much plastic waste in hotels on a recent trip to California and was told there were certain state laws regarding hygiene and that all single-use items had to be wrapped. However, a different hotel had individual paper cups that weren’t wrapped in communal areas but were wrapped in your room, and another hotel had china mugs and glasses! I don’t think that explanation was entirely correct at all, maybe it was just company policy!

bagels in a plastic display case with single use jams and butters in a black display case
Some steps in the right direction but still too much single-use plastic

It may take a little thought when packing, but eventually, it will become as natural as checking that you’ve got your passport. Bit by bit we can all make a difference.

You might like to read other blogs that I’ve written about reducing and reusing waste:



Do you take anything on holiday with you to reduce waste? Or even on a day-to-day basis at home?



7 thoughts on “10 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste in Hotels, Cafes & Bars

  1. This is so, so true! It’s such a good idea to leave a note in your review & chat to the manager – who knows what you might spark!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. These are some really good and really do-able tips too. We’ve tried in recent years to cut down on towel use. Most hotels do have signs up asking people not to dump their towels if they don’t need them washed every day too which is good consciousness-raising.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So many good tips. I always feel guilty about this when I go away and try not to use anything by taking my own but sometimes they will throw and change anyway and then I feel even more guilty that it was thrown away for nothing! A great idea to leave reviews too. X

    Liked by 1 person

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