It is estimated that in the UK alone, at least 4.4 billion straws are thrown away annually1 and it has been predicted that the weight of plastic in the ocean will outweigh fish by 2050,2 if nothing is done to tackle this issue. This is just one of the reasons why luxury hotels have committed to eliminating single-use plastics from their properties in the near future.
In the first instalment of our plastic-free mini-series, we spoke to Megan O’Beirne, Sustainability Manager for Six Senses Laamu, about their commitment towards the initiative.
For those unaware, what are you doing to reduce your use of single-use plastics?
Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas as a global company is leading the tourism industry by taking a stance against plastic: Plastic Free 2022. All properties are taking inventory of the plastics being used, sourcing alternatives, and eliminating the plastic items so that we are tackling the issue at the source, and not resting on the inadequate recycling systems currently in place worldwide. We have eliminated single-use plastic water bottles by filtering and bottling our own drinking water in reusable glass bottles.
We have banned single-use plastic bags, and switch guests’ duty free bags at the airport with paper ones. Straws are only given on request and are made from biodegradable paper. All shower amenities are provided in refillable ceramic pumps, and toothbrushes are made from bamboo instead of plastic. Cling film in the kitchens has been reduced by using stainless steel containers with lids instead. Purchase orders are made in bulk wherever possible to reduce packaging, and suppliers are requested to reduce packaging or use biodegradable paper instead of plastic.
“The foundations of the Six Senses brand are in sustainability and wellness. Plastic pollution is a global environmental issue, but especially in the Maldives where there are very limited recycling facilities, the amount of waste that is created by single-use plastic is unsustainable.”
Have your customers supported your commitment to reducing single-use plastics?
Yes, I would say 50% of guests I speak to are already aware of the Six Senses brand concept, and they booked Six Senses Laamu because they agree with our sustainability philosophy. The other 50% may have booked their stay without knowing about our ethos, but when they come to learn about why we bottle our own water, or why we ask them to take their shampoo bottles home with them, they are eager to participate and learn more about what they can do to reduce their environmental impact. A big part of the Six Senses experience is learning about how you can better your lifestyle after your stay, whether that is eating a healthier diet, getting a better night’s sleep, or adopting more environmentally-friendly habits. If a guest can see that at the resort we are trying to reduce our use of single-use plastics and understand why it is important, hopefully they will go home and analyse their own consumption and they too will eliminate single-use plastics from their own daily life.
Why is reducing the amount of single-use plastics important to your brand?
The foundations of the Six Senses brand are in sustainability and wellness. Plastic pollution is a global environmental issue, but especially in the Maldives where there are limited recycling facilities, the amount of waste that is created by single-use plastic is unsustainable and difficult to responsibly dispose of. If plastic ends up in the ocean, it never biodegrades, so just breaks down into tiny microplastics that enter the food chain and kill marine life. This relates to wellness because we don’t want to expose our guests to the toxic chemicals that build up in our seafood, or the plastic packaging with which our food comes into contact. It is important for Six Senses Laamu to reduce the use of single-use plastics as not creating the waste is a lot easier than trying to transport and recycle it from such a remote location.
How have you ensured that quality is not compromised when sourcing single-use plastic alternatives?
There are plenty of high quality and reasonable alternatives to single-use plastics, and in many ways, it is about getting back to the traditional ways of doing things. Before plastic was invented, one drank milk from glass bottles and returned them to be refilled. The concept of single-use plastic entered society with the notion of convenience and on-the-go lifestyles. The solutions to our problems of waste are often simply found in how things were done in the good ol’ days! At Six Senses Laamu, we try to source items that are either reusable and long-lasting, or if they must be short-term use, they are biodegradable. Glass water bottles with a metal clamp are both longer lasting and more elegant than plastic water bottles, so actually better achieve the luxury standard Six Senses is aiming for. Toothbrushes, however, must be disposable, so the ones provided in the villa are made of bamboo and are wrapped in corn starch packaging, which is 100% biodegradable.
Don’t forget to look out for the rest of our plastic-free mini-series. We’ll be catching up with Six Senses at ILTM Cannes this year. To meet them, join us in Cannes, 3-6 December, 2018.