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In Industry First, IHG to Phase Out Plastic Toiletry Bottles From All 17 of Its Hotel Brands

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Holiday Inn Express logo seen at the hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ronen Tivony / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

Could mini shampoo bottles be the next target in the war on plastic pollution?


InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), which owns the Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza chains, announced Tuesday it would phase out travel-sized plastic toiletry bottles from its 843,000 rooms, replacing them with bulk gels, shampoos and conditioners by 2021, CNN Business reported.

"It's more important than ever that companies challenge themselves to operate responsibly," IHG CEO Keith Barr said in the announcement. "We know it's what our guests, owners, colleagues, investors and suppliers rightly expect. Switching to larger-size amenities across more than 5,600 hotels around the world is a big step in the right direction and will allow us to significantly reduce our waste footprint and environmental impact as we make the change."

The move builds on the group's 2018 decision to ban plastic straws, The New York Times reported.

"This, to me, was the next logical step," Barr told The New York Times.

The hotel group has already made the switch in nearly one third of its hotels, Barr said in the announcement. And, while it is the first hotel group to institute a ban across all 17 of its brands, other hotels have taken steps in a similar direction. Marriott announced in 2018 it would use bulk soaps and shampoos in 1,500 North American hotels, and Hilton said in March it was recycling used soap into new bars, CNN reported.

Such initiatives may not be optional in the future. California is considering a bill that would make it illegal for hotels to offer small plastic bottles beginning in 2023, according to The New York Times. But replacing personal bottles with bulk dispensers can also have economic benefits for hotels.

"Budget hotels have always been more likely to have bulk shampoo and conditioner dispensers in the shower, and some also have them by the sink. The reason is cost," Atmosphere Research Group President and travel industry expert Henry H. Harteveldt told The New York Times. "It costs them less to install and service these bulk dispensers than providing individual cakes of soap and bottles of shampoo, conditioner and the like."

The news comes amidst growing concern about the impact of plastic waste on marine life. One million birds and more than 100,000 marine mammals die each year because of the approximately eight million metric tons of plastic that enter the world's oceans each year. And a study released this month found that seabirds who don't die from eating plastic are still smaller and less healthy because of their artificial diet.

Despite these concerns, plastic use is projected to increase this decade, CBS reported.

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