by Matt Alderton | December 05, 2018
Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide, AccorHotels, InterContinental Hotels Group, Hyatt Hotels Corp., MGM Resorts International, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and Meliá Hotel International are just a few of the major hoteliers that have either reduced or eliminated single-use plastics at their properties, or have pledged to do so in the near future. 

The latest to join their ranks: global hospitality company Benchmark, which has announced its "Single Use Plastic Reduction" project, which aims to reduce the use of single-use 

According to the company, approximately 8 million tons of plastic products pollute the Earth's oceans, rivers and coastlines every year, endangering wildlife, littering beaches and releasing toxins into water. To reduce its contribution to the bloat, Benchmark said it will combine "innovative technology; comprehensive policies and procedures; introduction of new, sustainable products, and a sophisticated messaging program to educate hotel staff and guests."

"Benchmark is targeting three items first -- cocktail picks, coffee stirrers and, especially, plastic straws," said Patrick Berwald, Benchmark's vice president of food and beverage. "It's just the beginning of our journey into sustainability in all areas of food and beverage."

According to Berwald, Americans collectively use 500 million plastic straws per day. At hotels, they're used not only in the bars and restaurants, but also at meetings and special events, in room service, and at informal outlets like golf courses, pools, beaches and spas. Last year alone, Berwald reported, Benchmark properties used 2.8 million plastic straws, 1.7 million plastic stirrers and 120,000 plastic cocktail picks.

Eventually, all plastic straws at Benchmark properties will be replaced with paper alternatives that are BPA- and chemical-free, and made from renewable resources like bamboo. In the interim, Benchmark properties will provide straws only on request. Future efforts will address other unsustainable items, including pizza boxes, Styrofoam items and plastic coffee lids.

"Benchmark includes 80 hotels and conference centers under four brand names -- Benchmark Resorts & Hotels, Gemstone Collection, Benchmark Conference Centers and Etc.venues, with over 120 food-and-beverage outlets. We are starting with 42 hotels and resorts domestically and expect to expand from there," noted Berwald, who said the initiative depends on teamwork. "This requires tremendous cooperation and coordination at every level of our organization. Operations, food and beverage and, of course, our guests -- all hands are needed to make this a success."