Best Practices


Tourism and waste generation

Tourism is responsible for a small share of waste generation within Europe, contributing towards the 6.7 % of total waste generation that arises from the wider services sector in the EU- 27 (EEA, 2010). Nonetheless, the quantities of solid waste generated by tourism enterprises are large in absolute terms – 35 million tonnes of solid waste per year globally (Conservation International, 2003) – and the types of waste generated are associated with greater environmental impacts than bulky and often inert wastes from the construction and mining sectors that dominate waste generation statistics.

Tourists may generate up to twice as much solid waste per capita as local residents (IFC, 2007). Waste from accommodation has similar characteristics to mixed household waste, being composed of a diverse mix of materials, including organic and hazardous materials, that can give rise to significant environmental impacts upon disposal (especially through GHG emissions and leaching of toxic materials). Accommodation and restaurants are major contributors to packaging waste (Eurostat, 2010), including plastics and metals with high embodied energy that are responsible for significant resource depletion upon disposal. Furthermore, tourism waste often varies seasonally, and is generated in areas sensitive to littering, potentially putting pressure on waste management facilities during peak season and damaging high nature value resources. Plastic waste in the seas poses a threat to dolphins, sea turtles and birds.

Reducing the overall amount of waste disposal from your operations should be at the forefront of your waste policy. It is the senior management and purchasing department that have the greatest responsibility in this area. When considering purchases, they should consider how much waste will be generated and go to landfill.

Reusing items that would otherwise go to waste is the next best option once you have reduced your waste items to as little as possible.

Once you have considered waste reduction and reuse, the next option is recycling. This also helps to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill. There are many items in guest accommodation that can be recycled such as paper, cardboard, plastics, glass and cooking oil.

This section of the online educational tool aims to provide an introduction to the best environmental management practices required to reduce, reuse and recycle waste in order to have a more cost effective and environmentally sound waste management system.