Acting on PM Narendra Modi's call, hotels cut use of PET bottles

Some of the five-star hotels have set up glass bottling units to replace PET bottles
Check into the J W Marriott hotel property at Delhi’s Aerocity, you will no longer find a plastic bottle. On Monday, it banished the last of its polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, replacing these with QR-coded glass ones from its Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based bottling unit. 

This 500-room property, says the management, consumes 5,479 bottles a day. The plan is to replicate this model, first at select hotels and to eventually do away with PET bottles at all its properties. Marriott joins Indian Hotels Company (IHCL, the Taj group) in doing so — the latter recently set up bottling units at select hotels in Delhi, Bengaluru, Maldives and Colombo, seeking to replace plastic bottles with glass ones. And, a spokesperson at Accor Hotels says most of its properties now use glass in both rooms and at events. Also, gives an option to banqueting guests to choose RO water stations in place of PET water bottles. 

Large chains like the Marriott and Taj that are estimated to consume two million plastic bottles a year have taken a conscious decision to first eliminate PET bottles on their premises and then reduce the use of single-use plastic altogether, saying they are all for a sustainably environment-friendly tomorrow. 

In his address from the Red Fort on Independence Day, the prime minister had urged people and shopkeepers to eliminate the use of plastic bags. “Can we free India from single-use plastic? The time for implementing such an idea has come. Teams must be mobilised to work in this direction. A significant step must come out by October 2 (Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary,” he’d said.

Marriott’s elimination of plastic bottles coincides with Amitabh Kant’s tweet, where the NITI Aayog head urged the travel industry to follow the Taj. “Taj informed me that they are establishing a bottling unit plant to eliminate all plastic bottles. They will take the lead in this regard. The entire travel industry should follow this practice,” Kant wrote on the micro blogging site on Monday.

For Nitesh Gandhi, general manager at the Aerocity Marriott, who spearheaded the project of setting up a bottling plant, eliminating plastics was a “personal vendetta”. An avid biker, the sight of mounds of plastic in and around the city whenever he would go biking, was disturbing.  “We have to admit that hotels of our size consume more than two million bottles a year. The idea was to eliminate the usage without compromising with our guests’ experience,” says Gandhi. 

Therefore, a year ago, his colleagues and he began the exercise of indentifying a firm that could help in setting up a (glass) bottling unit. After research which included visits to the bottling units of Pepsi, Coke, Mother Diary and Nestle, the unit became operational on Monday. The AI-based unit gives information about the quality of water and its content on a real-time basis, claims Gandhi. Marriott has invested Rs 20 lakh in the project, half for water and glass bottles and the rest for buying ergonomically designed trolleys to port the water into rooms and restaurants. 

The move on plastic bottles by hotels is a continuation of an exercise in eliminating other plastic items, starting a year before. IHCL, which owns the Taj-branded five-star hotel chains, has phased out single-use plastic in rooms.  Many Taj hotels have reduced usage of plastic by replacing wrapped dry amenities in rooms such as toothbrushes, shaving kits, etc, with eco-friendly substitutes, said a spokesperson. 

 “Last year, we took a commitment to eliminate single-use plastic straws from our hotels and successfully eliminated two million of these across IHCL, including at TajSATS (in-flight catering),” said the spokesperson. Marriott and Accor, too, say they have replaced such plastics with biodegradable material.

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