INTERNATIONAL: Germany Directs Guidelines At Tourism Waste

When selecting a vacation spot, 70 percent of tourists rate an intact environment - which depends on sound waste management - a high priority, according to the State Environmental Ministry of Hesse, Germany. To help curb wastefulness while attracting tourists, the ministry has produced guidelines entitled "Environmentally Conscious Hotel and Restaurant Operations" under copyright from the state of Bavaria.

Each year, an estimated 8 million people visit the state of Hesse, which is located in the heart of Germany and is home to the city of Frankfurt as well as many popular tourist sites. Assuming that each guest generates two to five liters of waste per day and there are 28 million overnight stays per year, these tourists leave behind approximately 100,000 cubic meters of waste.

To control these volumes, the state's goals are to maximize waste avoidance, pollutant prevention and materials recycling. These goals must be met in a manner that protects human health and the environment.

The guidelines give owners and operators several good reasons, in addition to cost control, for cutting waste. Today, surviving and profiting in business depends upon long-term strategies that also address environmental concerns, the guidelines claim. Catering to an increasingly environmentally conscious client base has become a way to pioneer market opportunities and to gain a competitive edge. This approach also can boost staff satisfaction, promote environmentally responsible behavior and enhance a business's credibility and standing within the community.

A section entitled "Green Tips to Put You in the Black" offers numerous ways to cope with rapidly rising waste disposal costs while still achieving customer satisfaction.

Strategies for hotels and restaurants to avoid waste should begin at the procurement stage, by considering how a product's disposal will affect the environment, by purchasing produce that is fresh rather than packaged and by arranging for deliveries in large, returnable, or at the least recyclable, containers.

For every cubic meter of waste avoided, hotels and restaurants could save approximately $6.25 on their garbage disposal fees in 1993. The annual waste volume of a 240-bed hotel with a successful restaurant is 686.2 cubic meters, excluding grease, starches and special wastes (see figure). Reducing the total volume by 30 percent would save about $1,250 per year.

According to the guidelines, vacationers are now willing to forego the individual portions of food and toiletry items which have proliferated in the name of practicality and hygiene. Hotels should provide dispensers instead of supplying the packaged portions of soap, shower gel and shampoo that are often only half used.

A cost comparison indicates the potential savings from avoiding individually packaged portions of food. For example, a restaurant in a 100-room hotel reportedly could save 23 percent by purchasing butter in 250-gram packages and 39 percent by purchasing honey in 12.5-kilogram tubs rather than single portions. To ensure freshness and cleanliness without excess packaging, restaurants also should use dispensers and keep the food out for limited periods of time.

In a hotel restaurant serving 30,000 meals a year, using bleached, cloth-like disposable napkins reportedly costs 5.2 times more than unbleached recycled paper napkins, 4.8 times more than ordinary bleached paper napkins and 2.3 times more than cloth napkins. The cheapest option, unbleached recycled paper napkins, costs 2.3 times less than cloth napkins.

To ensure a compostable food waste stream, restaurants should avoid disposable tableware, aluminum and plastic wrap and even degradable eating utensils made from starches, which some composting facilities will not accept.

To promote material recycling, hotels are advised to provide attractively labeled containers for in-house source separation in the kitchen, restaurant, office and even hotel rooms. For example, all bathrooms could have a separate container for recyclable paper and the cleaning crew's carts could be equipped with a second container for collection. Adequate indoor and outdoor storage space for compactors and recyclables should be planned for all new construction and remodeling projects.

Although hotels and restaurants can offer ecologically oriented goods and services at higher prices, they are cautioned to avoid empty, unsubstantiated claims or one-time actions without any follow-through. Eco-management is not merely a matter of what's fashionable, but requires concrete programs and continuous efforts.