Those Hotel Mini Soaps and Shampoo Bottles Will Soon Be History

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Mini toiletries will soon be replaced with full-sized items at some major hotel chains and in California. Lee Walker/Shutterstock

Long a mainstay of the hotel business, tiny bottles of shampoo and lotion will soon be gone in California.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill this week banning hotels from providing mini bottles in an effort to reduce the amount of plastic being tossed away by hotel guests, reports CNN.

The bill, which is set to take effect in 2023, applies to properties that have more than 50 rooms. Hotels with fewer than 50 rooms must stop using the personal-sized toiletries by 2024. The bill won't affect hospitals, nursing homes, residential retirement communities, prisons, jails or homeless shelters.

Owners and operators who don't comply with the bill -- known as AB 1162 -- would be subject to fines. On the first violation, they would receive a warning, along with $500 for each day a property is in violation, up to $2,000, according to the bill. A second violation would result in a $2,000 fine.

The bill comes at a time when several major hotel groups are also doing away with individual soaps and shampoos.

In August, Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel chain, said it would remove personal-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner and bath gel from its hotel rooms around the world by December 2020. They will be replaced with larger, pump-topped bottles, Marriott said in a statement.

Already more than 20% of Marriott's 7,000 hotels offer larger bottles. The chain has properties in 131 countries under 30 brands including Residence Inn, Sheraton and Westin. The company says the switch will keep about 500 million small bottles out of landfills each year, which equals 1.7 million pounds of plastic.

The announcement followed a similar move in July when InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) said it was removing the small amenities in its 843,000 guest rooms across its 17 hotel brands. Instead, guests will find bulk-sized toiletries in all rooms by the end of 2021.

IHG — which owns Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza hotels — said it was the first global hotel company to swap out the individual toiletries.

"Switching to larger-size amenities across more than 5,600 hotels around the world is a big step in the right direction and will allow us to significantly reduce our waste footprint and environmental impact as we make the change," CEO Keith Barr said in a news release.

"We've already made great strides in this area, with almost a third of our estate already adopting the change and we're proud to lead our industry by making this a brand standard for every single IHG hotel. We're passionate about sustainability and we'll continue to explore ways to make a positive difference to the environment and our local communities."

IHG said about 200 million mini toiletries are placed in bathrooms in its hotels each year. When those are gone, "the company expects to see a significant reduction in plastic waste."

Environmental and commercial sense

hotel refillable toiletries
Some hotels already offer toiletries in refillable bottles. Breslavtsev Oleg/Shutterstock

Although IHG and Marriott might be the first companies to make the toiletries switch across all their properties, other hotels have used refillable toiletries and the reasons aren't entirety altruistic.

"Budget hotels have always been more likely to have bulk shampoo and conditioner dispensers in the shower, and some also have them by the sink. The reason is cost," Henry H. Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and the president of Atmosphere Research Group, told The New York Times. "It costs them less to install and service these bulk dispensers than providing individual cakes of soap and bottles of shampoo, conditioner and the like."

Combine the cost savings with the reduced environmental impact and you can see why a company this big would reach this conclusion. IHG CEO Barr told the Times that the toiletries swap is a win-win that just "makes environmental and commercial sense."