Use, don’t throw: ITC WelcomHotel Coimbatore will soon be free of single-use plastic

Eco-friendly food packaging   | Photo Credit: Pankaja Srinivasan

Being sustainable does not mean compromising on luxury, says Rohit Mallick, General Manager of ITC Coimbatore that has just declared it will discontinue single-use plastic by the end of the year. “Our pledge is to offer our guests responsible luxury and a planet positive experience. Luxury and sustainability go hand in hand. This is a philosophy ITC holds close to its heart.”

Rohit spells out the measures the hotel has already begun putting in place. While it won’t be an overnight change, he admits, the hotel is focussing on getting there as soon as it can. “We have worked with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) that very clearly defines what single-use plastic is. Once we were clear on that, our teams worked on the various aspects of identifying and finding alternatives.”

ITC teams counted around 350 plastic products that the hotels use. Some were used many times like buckets, mugs, etc. But there were nearly 150 items that were used just once before being thrown away, including stirrers, straws, cutlery and food packaging for takeaways, shoe-shine packets, newspaper bags and laundry bags.

“We earmarked around 30% that could be eliminated immediately. We are approaching this in three ways. We will switch to alternative products, use larger packaging formats and, of course, completely do away with those that we do not need at all,” explains Rohit, adding a fourth and very vital element is also to educate vendors and the supply chain. “For example, our slippers came in plastic covers. We have informed our supplier that we do not want that. In the kitchens, we procure ingredients in larger quantities to avoid many small packets of spices and provisions.”

Eliminating plastic from the rooms

Eliminating plastic from the rooms   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

From the beginning...
  • The ITC Welcome Hotel Coimbatore is LEED Certified and ever since it began functioning in the city has put into place energy-efficient and sustainable practices. These are:
  • Sunya Aqua: Zero Mile water as it involves no transportation and is served in reuseable glass bottles
  • Food-waste management: Over 99% of solid waste is either re-used or recycled. Food waste is converted into manure
  • Water-conserving initiatives: Besides a rainwater harvesting system, a waste-water treatment plant reduces water consumption
  • Other earth-friendly measures: Windmills and solar panels generate electricity. There is 100% LED lighting and there is a heat pump instead of energy-guzzling boilers to help eliminate carbon emissions.

It is an eye-opener, as Rohit says, the tally of single-use plastics is nearly 10 to a room. “These include the small bottles of shampoos, conditioners, bath gels, soaps, toothbrushes, shower caps, combs and razors. And, of course, bottled water. On an average, each room uses about four bottles per day. Even with an 80% occupancy, including the toiletries, that is nearly 300 to 400 discards a day.”

Plastic bottles have been replaced by glass. Refillable soap and shampoo dispensers are being fixed in the bathrooms; plastic covers for glasses are being replaced by steel ones and bamboo toothbrushes, wooden combs and razors are in the pipeline. A card in each room explains the hotel’s philosophy about eliminating single-use plastic by the year end. “Of course, the guests are assured of their comfort,” says Rohit.

ITC teams went through the inventory with a fine toothcomb and submitted their reports so that immediate action could be taken.

In Coimbatore, according to Rohit, ITC is a water-positive company. This means that, after recycling grey and black water and using that for gardening and flushing, there is excess water. “We are in talks with our neighbours to supply that water to them. All it needs is laying a pipeline and providing a tap.”

Working and sharing with community is a big part of being sustainable, says Rohit. Similarly, food waste is composted and 1, 500 kg of compost is produced per month. The hotel sells it to whoever wants it (some educational institutions buy from them) at ₹2 a kilo, whereas in the market it sells at anything from ₹40 to ₹60 a kg.

Rohit lists environment, society and economy as ITC’s ‘triple bottomline’. The company was already on the path to sustainability long before it became a buzzword and is striving to reach its goals by working on its products, processes and people.

“Not just our employees,” says Rohit. “Our aim is also to take our guests along on this path to have some positive impact on this beleaguered planet.”

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Printable version | May 13, 2021 10:36:56 PM |

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