Stop Sucking



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How hotels can get rid of plastic and turn waste into wealth.

Soneva has been at the forefront of the sustainable luxury hospitality movement for over two decades. Arnfinn Oines, Soneva’s Social & Environmental Conscience, explains what’s been done to inspire others to do the same.

You have most likely seen images of a dying whale with its stomach full of plastic bags or a poor turtle with a plastic straw stuck through its nose. Our oceans are heavily polluted, particularly with plastic waste, which gathers in such huge quantities it has been given a name – The Great Pacific garbage patch. Plastic waste makes our beaches dirty and unattractive. It is broken down into micro-plastic, which is consumed by fish, and that contamination is passed on to us humans on our dinner plates when we eat fish.

The hotel industry is a large contributor to plastic waste. But does it have to be? At Soneva, we do not believe so and say #StopSucking. With sound responsible business practices, hotels can be a force for good.

The first step is to eliminate plastic waste. Soneva banned the use of plastic straws in 1998, and for the past 20 years our resorts have used paper straws sourced from responsible managed forests instead. Soneva has always used ceramic soap and shampoo dispensers that are refilled, instead of the small plastic bottles that create huge amounts of plastic waste. The environmental benefits are obvious, but our room amenities also look much nicer for our guests and the cost for us as a company of re-filling ceramic dispensers is significantly lower.

In 2008 Soneva also banned the import of branded bottled water, making it one of the first resort companies in the world to do so. Each resort filters, mineralises and bottles its own Soneva Drinking Water in reusable glass bottles. We have used proceeds from the savings to fund over 500 clean water projects in more than 50 countries via charities such as Whole World Water and Thirst Aid – enabling over 750,000 people around the world to have access to clean and safe water. Soneva Drinking Water has so far averted the production of 1.5 million plastic bottles.

Stop Sucking

Once you get rid of the plastic, the second step is to treat waste as an asset rather than something you throw away. We call it Waste-to-Wealth. For us it is important to both handle high-volume and low-volume items. The important thing is to find creative ways to generate value from waste.

The Soneva Maker Programme up-cycles plastic into new products. Using open sourced blueprints from Precious Plastic, an organisation that boosts plastic recycling, we built machines using scrap metal and other waste products that enable us to up-cycle plastic.

Our first product was plastic Easter eggs, used for our resorts’ Easter egg hunts for children. We then shredded styrofoam boxes into pellets and mixed them with crushed coloured glass and cement to create lightweight building blocks. They eliminate the need for sand, have better insulating properties and are more cost effective than regular blocks.

Stop Sucking

Another example of our Waste-to-Wealth initiative is Soneva Fushi’s Art and Glass Studio, the only hot glass studio in the Maldives. Here used glass bottles from Soneva and neighbouring resorts in the Baa Atoll are crushed and melted down. Then using techniques such as glass blowing, casting, and slumping, the Soneva glass team creates functional pieces as well as one of a kind glass sculptures which can be bought from the Art and Glass Studio.

Less glamorous, but important due to the high volume, is what we do with our organic waste. Food and garden waste are mixed together to create fertile compost which is put use in the vegetable gardens where we grow herb and vegetables. The produce provides our chefs with the freshest ingredients to produce dishes that are nutritious as well as tasty.

We are very proud that we now recycle 90% of our solid waste, and that our Waste-to-Wealth programme has been true to its word, generating US$ 340,000 in 12 months. This shows that waste is an asset which if handled soundly can create great value.

Soneva has been at the forefront of the sustainable luxury hospitality movement for over two decades. We have shown that luxury and sustainability complement each other. Turtles should not have to get a plastic straw up their nose. Plastic is not cool. #StopSucking and eliminate plastic.

Soneva has one property in Thailand and three properties in the Maldives. Soneva Kiri in Thailand has stepped up to be a member of the NOW Force for Good Alliance. Check it out on the NOW Sustainability Tool to view how they are raising the bar on accountability and transparency around sustainability with no greenwash allowed.

Read NOW interview with Arnfinn Oines.

NOW Travel Diaries

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