Recycling Blue Whales. One per Year!

Even though we try to avoid recycling as much as possible and opt to refuse, reduce or reuse products, we realize that are forced to do quite a bit of recycling when we don’t have other options.   

A few days ago, we celebrated international recycling day and it inspired us to take a closer look at our recycling efforts during the past years at our Cayuga Collection Hotels and Lodges.

Bamboo Straws
At the Cayuga Collection, we eliminated single-use plastic straws and bottles more than 10 years ago. Plastic recycling usually means downcycling into lower-quality products.

For many years, we have been very meticulous in weighing and registering our solid waste.  Organic waste, recyclable waste by material (plastic, paper, tetra brick, glass, aluminum, metal cans), and non-recyclable waste.  At the Cayuga Collection, we believe that only things that can be measured can be improved.

Details of Solid Waste Recycling Cayuga Collection Hotels 2016 to 2021

We also keep track of the waste we pick up from beaches and forests during our regular beach cleanups.  For this blog, we will look at our five-year data from February 2016 to February 2021 which also shows the impact of the Pandemic on solid waste production in our hotels. 

We managed to recycle almost 80% (79.53% to be exact).  In total, that represented 413 tons of recycled or biodegradable materials that did not go into local landfills.  To get an idea of the magnitude of this see the picture below. 

413 tons of recycled materials is comparable to the weight of the CAT mining truck in this picture that weighs about 390 tons.

In 2019, our recycling percentage was almost 81% which represented 113 tons of materials.  That is similar to the weight of an adult blue whale that weighs 120 tons on average. 

While this is quite impressive and we are very proud of our teams for this great recycling effort, there are still lots of opportunities to improve though. Recycling just like sustainability in general is a process. First of all, we will continue to try to reduce the number of materials that cannot be recycled so that our output to landfills continues to go down. We can do this by negotiating with our suppliers to reduce packaging or use reusable packaging.

We can also continue to reduce the number of recyclable materials with a specific focus on plastic. For example, a few years ago we started to make our own condiments (ketchup, hot sauce, mayonnaise, and mustard) to avoid producing the plastic bottles in which they were delivered to us.

We feel comfortable that our glass, paper, aluminum, and metal can solid waste is reused correctly by our local recycling partners and helps avoid the mining of additional raw materials to produce those products.

Tree chart on the relative amounts of materials recycled by the Cayuga Collection Hotels in the past five years.

Our solid waste production went down to almost zero in April 2020 when we closed our hotels due to the Covid19 pandemic. We reopened our hotels for the local market in June 2020 but only until early 2021, international travelers started to return to our hotels. We are seeing those increases in solid waste production right now.

This chart clearly shows the seasonality of our hotel occupancy and the impact of the Pandemic in early 2020.

We are currently working hard to avoid getting back to previous levels of solid waste production. This is part of a bigger quest to make sure that tourism comes back “better” and more sustainable after the pandemic. If you have ideas and thoughts, we would love to hear from you in the comments below.

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Hans Pfister

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