The world's largest hotel chain is checking out of the tiny toiletry game.
Marriott International announced Wednesday that it would begin phasing out miniature bottles of shampoo, conditioner and bath gel in favor of larger, pump-topped bottles at its 7,000 properties worldwide by December 2020. The company estimates the move will keep 1.7 million pounds of plastic - or about 500 million tiny bottles - from ending up in landfills each year.
"This is our second global initiative aimed at reducing single-use plastics in just over a year, which underscores how important we believe it is to continuously find ways to reduce our hotels' environmental impact. It's a huge priority for us," Marriott's chief executive, Arne Sorenson, said in a statement. "Our guests are looking to us to make changes that will create a meaningful difference for the environment while not sacrificing the quality service and experience they expect from our hotels."
The shift reflects a wider reckoning with waste within the hospitality industry, where the emphasis on convenience and sanitation has long meant that just about anything a guest might need would be single-use and plastic-wrapped. And even if companies don't elect to cut back on waste, some may soon be forced to: California lawmakers are weighing a bill that would ban hotels from using small, plastic bottles for guests starting in 2023, and the European Union is slated to ban a wide range of single-use plastic items by 2021.
The Bethesda, Maryland-based company's announcement follows that of rival hospitality juggernaut InterContinental Hotels Group, which made the same move in July, and other giants, like Hyatt, which is testing bulk toiletries in certain properties. Last year, the Walt Disney Co. dispensed with little plastic bottles on its cruise ships and at its resorts.
Marriott, which counts the Sheraton, Westin and Ritz-Carlton among its many brands, has been testing larger toiletry bottles since January 2018. Currently, about 1,000 of Marriott's hotels have made the switch, and reaction from guests has very positive, the company said.
Plastic takes more than 400 years to decompose, taking a toll on the environment, especially considering that roughly 8.8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the world's oceans in each year. And while hundreds of millions of pounds of plastic are produced annually, only a small fraction of it is recycled.
Marriott's pivot away from tiny toiletries feeds into the company's larger efforts to limit its environmental impact. The company aims to reduce its landfill waste by 45 percent and responsibly source its top 10 product purchase categories, including guest amenities, by 2025. Last year, the company ditched plastic straws and stirrers - a move Sorenson sees as a success and believes guests will support, despite some inevitable kvetching.
"Human nature is what it is and we resist change," Sorenson told the AP. "But people understand that this is so much better."
This article was written by Taylor Teldford, a reporter for The Washington Post.