They tuck so beautifully into a carry-on bag, and they are small enough not to trigger retaliation from overzealous security guards, but those little hotel-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body lotion are an environmental mess.
Friends of mine gather them zealously. They seldom travel, but they ask everyone who does to bring back the little bottles. They are not hoarders. They put them into small bags, along with toothpaste, toothbrushes, hand soap and other small items. In winter they give them out at a shelter that offers beds during the months when sleeping on the streets can be fatal.
All around the world, thousands of hotels stock the tiny bottles that provide amenities for travelers. An informal July survey by USATODAY.com and TripAdvisor.com showed that 44% of hotel guests either ignore them or use and leave them. Others take them along when they check out of the hotel.
Reporting in USA TODAY, Barbara De Lollis writes that some hotels are replacing the small bottles with pump or pop-top bottles in more regular sizes. Refilling them is costing roughly the same as providing the smaller sizes. A report in Time speculates the larger bottles “give hotel guests the sense of being at home.”
One hotel supplier, Concept Amenities, has created a video that draws attention to the environmental impact of all the plastic items thrown out by hotels every day. They say the top 300 largest hotel groups dispose of 5.5 billion amenity bottles and caps every year. Their solution is to sell biodegradable packaging rather than fewer bottles.
The large dispensers come with their own set of problems, including the possibility of contamination. They also may be filled with chemical-laden products that increase the burden on water and on our bodies. Anti-terrorist initiatives have made carrying our own, carefully chosen supplies nearly impossible.
So what do you think? Should hotels continue to provide those tiny little bottles, mostly headed for landfills? Should you take them with you or leave them behind? Should hotels provide pump or pop-top bottles? Should we be able to bring our own?
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Photo from jeffgunn via Flickr Creative Commons
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