Why we avoid the Recycling of Plastic Water Bottles at all Cost

We realize that sustainability is a process and a continuous effort.   One is never really 100% sustainable and it takes making some tough choices.  Topics like serving responsible seafood, working with an exclusively local staff or reducing the use of air conditioning are on our agenda on a daily basis.  But it is what we are all about at the Cayuga Collection Hotels and Lodges.  And we will continue to strive for that symbiosis of sustainability and luxury in hospitality.  Right now we are working on the following challenge:

How to avoid the use (and therefore the recycling) of plastic water bottles at our hotels?  

Recycling Center
Cayuga Corportate Team and Hotel Managers at the Florida Ice & Farm Recycling Center. Concerned about so much plastic.  Is recycling really the solution here?

Don’t get us wrong here, we are not against recycling of plastic bottles in general (we have been recycling at our hotels for over 20 years), but it should be the last option to consider after going through all other alternatives.    Here is our ” hierarchy” of how to best deal with serving water to our guests.

Best Option:   Use no bottles at all.   Our tap water is just great.   Safe to drink and it tastes great.

Good Option:   If a guest insists on drinking bottled water, serve it in a reusable water bottle made out of glass.

OK Option:   If there are no reusable glass water bottles available, use a glass water bottle that can recycled.

Avoid this Option:   If there are no glass water bottles available, use a plastic water bottle and recycle.

avoid the use of plastic bottles
Plastic bottles to be recycled. If they cannot be avoided, then this is the way to go. But we will try to avoid their use.  Refuse first – then recycle.

In the past years, we have made a strong effort to avoid selling plastic water bottles to our guests. That comes at a cost and we estimate that we have foregone about one million US Dollars in sales per year (see this blog for details on this topic).  As of today, we are very close to being 100% free of plastic bottles at the Cayuga Collection Hotels.   The areas that we are still struggling with is the minibar in our rooms and water that we serve our guests ” off premise”.

You might still find some plastic bottles in our minibars, but we have started to place pitchers with tap water in the minibar and have changed the presentation of bottles from plastic to glass whenever possible.   When guests ask for water to be taken on tours or when we receive guests at the airport and offer water, we are working on a conceptual shift from plastic bottles to reusable tin bottles.   We have been surprised by how open guests are to bringing their own water bottles from home, buying them at cost in our shops or just ” borrowing” them from us for the length of their stay.

water served at lapa rios eco lodge
Water for guests coming back from a rain forest tour at Lapa Rios Ecolodge. No need for bottled water.

There is still a way to go and the most important thing is to work with the local suppliers of beverages to reverse a recent trend from glass to plastic and from multi-use to one time use in Costa Rica.   Last week, the Corporate and Management Team of Cayuga, paid visit to the Costa Rican Beverage producer Florida Ice & Farm (they produce and bottle the local beer, water and juices among other things).  We consider them a partner in this quest as they are a world leader in terms of their sustainability program and we left them with some requests to help us and the hospitality industry in Costa Rica to become more sustainable.

Cristal water bottle
Cristal Water in a reusable water bottle. A sustainable alternative to plastic bottle recycling.

*  Promote Cristal Water in reusable water bottles in the marketplace (it is currently not know at all).

*  Extend the Cristal reusable water bottle line to a presentation in 0.33 l bottles (for mini bars and airport transfers).

*  Encourage the distributors to sell reusable water bottles and create incentives for consumers  to avoid plastic bottles.

During our visit, we found that a lot of the staff at  Florida Ice & Farm is willing to help us find solutions to reducing the amount of plastic bottles used in our hotels and the hospitality industry in general.  After a visit to their recycling center, it became clear to us that we cannot go on like this. There is way too much plastic in this world.   Recycling is good, but it is the last response if all other strategies failed.  Think about this next time you drink water out of a plastic bottle at a hotel.

Our next goal:   Moving from plastic to glass containers for food storage in our kitchens.   Stay tuned”¦


If you would like to learn more about the sustainability efforts at our sustainable hotels, resorts and eco lodges, visit our website.   We would love to hear your comments.   Send us a note at info@cayugaonline.com.

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