The End of Tiny Toiletry Bottles?


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 and 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.

Suite101 suggests guests take the little bottles home and reuse them or donate them to a homeless shelter. Sierra Club says the green solution is to leave them behind.

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


Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

Flying is very ungreen--and bus and train to the best of my knowledge don't have nearly the TSA hassle air travel does.

Alice E.
Alice E6 years ago

People could bring their own stuff to hotels. Hotels could offer good quality products for sale in their gift shops. Why does everything have to be made so easy for hotel guests? They can call room service for supplies to be brought up if they don't have their own.
But we do need small containers to bring our supplies on board when we fly. It's a hassle.

Swadeep Reddy
Swadeep Reddy6 years ago

Do whatever to reduce plastic usage

Michele M.
Michele M6 years ago

I have used them at the hotel or taken them home for future use while traveling, but I would be glad, overall, to see the little bottles go We need to use fewer plastic and petrochemical- based products. Many people just throw them away, and not all recycling companies do the responsible thing with the recyclables they collect. It's better if the demand for these bottles dwindles.

Pradip Chavda
Pradip Chavda6 years ago

I agree with CG G, they should give them "ON REQUEST ONLY". The hotel guests should also preferably carry their own so the pressure on environment is little eased as well as the hotel's cost.

Past Member
Past Member 6 years ago

I usually bring my own anyway and leave the hotel ones behind; I've got sensitive skin. At a recent motel stay, they had biodegradable tubes for the toiletries, which was very cool. And I've seen, at cheaper places along the lines of Super 8, refillable dispensers mounted to the wall. That's a good call, though it usually means crappy quality toiletries.

Taking the toiletries means they have to replace them, which is more waste. I love the idea of refillable dispensers to reduce waste. It probably saves money, too.

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons6 years ago

I refill them and re-use them. they are convenient to have when traveling. a larger size would kind of defeat the purpose.

Ernie Miller
william Miller6 years ago

I think people should have to request them. but if they do that Hotel's will put them in vending machines which isnt necessarly good either.

Dorothy K.
Dorothy K6 years ago

thanks for this article,on short trips, I use the small bottles of shampoo and rinse but not the hand lotions, too fragrant. Like others have said, maybe make them optional, if you need it, it is free at the desk. I just had to ask for toothpaste at the motel, not only did I get a teeny tiny tube, (just enough!) but a tootbrush along with it, kind of a waste really, had my own!

Past Member 6 years ago

Maybe not put them in every room. Just make it an "upon request" type thing.