We’ve seen many trends within the hospitality industry over the past few years, but there is one in particular that has really piqued interest: the idea of the ‘circular economy’. Out of all of the exciting, emerging trends that are beginning to flourish, the circular economy appears to have the most promise in terms of long term impact on the sector, paving the way for transformation and greater sustainability within the field.
What is the circular economy?
Throughout recent history, Britain has largely relied upon a simple, linear economy to meet consumer needs and thrive within industrial and commercial environments. There has very much been a make-use-dispose mantra, with raw materials being converted into items which are then used and thrown out as non-recyclable waste. There is a clear start, and a clear end, to the linear economy; isn’t it time we went a little more circular?
The circular economy is blending these distinct start and finish lines, generating processes that consistently go round and round. In doing so, there is a significant reduction in the need for new raw materials, and in the need for disposal, with existing products being altered for further use with each new revolution of the wheel. The aim is to minimise the need for the harvesting of natural resources and greatly reduce waste to protect the environment and draw awareness to ‘green’, eco-friendly processes.
The circular economy has been sneaking up on us for years — recycled newspapers have long been standard, for example — but it’s now beginning to show signs of infiltrating many other industries, with the hospitality sector being cited as one area which could massively benefit from adopting a circular approach to service provision.
Recycling and sustainability has become a firm focus within the hospitality sector, with many venues taking measures such as replacing plastic straws with recyclable paper or reusable stainless steel options, and shifting from paper towels to washable fabrics. Research suggests that by taking small steps such as these, hotel waste could be reduced by 16 percent, pub waste by 30 percent, and nightclub waste by up to 98%.
However, this really is only the start. Solar panels are becoming a more common sight, generating energy to power restaurants and bars through renewable sources, while some hotels are going even further to transform the linear economy into something more circular. The QO Amsterdam, for example, is famous for its aquarium, making use of natural fish waste to provide essential nutrients to the hotel’s greenhouse plants; all of which are grown as ingredients to stock the on-site restaurants and feed hungry guests.
Looking to the future
As more and more organisations operating within the hospitality sector embrace the concept of reusability, it is hoped that the idea of the circular economy could be rolled out through the entirety of the tourism industry. The UNESCO Year of Sustainable Tourism may well have been and gone, but the focus on sustainability is still shining brightly.