Just when it seemed as if single-use plastics were slowly becoming a thing of the past, COVID-19 hit the industry. The second half of 2019 had seen more and more industry leaders making public pledges to abandon a product group that had become the infamous representative of an old and immoral, linear economy.

A few months later, the former sustainability arch-enemy is experiencing a massive comeback as a hygiene hero. COVID-19 and the fear of future pandemics are radically challenging recent approaches to product circularity/re-use by imposing enhanced hygienic standards. Keeping a strong position against single-use items might impose dramatic acquisition costs and operational distress on businesses slowly recovering from their liquidity breakdown.

Whilst pondering the reputational risk of violating hygiene law on the one side and diminished sustainability efforts on the other, the former is likely to turn up trumps.

The battle for sterility might be won by detergents containing ingredients unlikely to biodegrade in wastewater. Laundry services might cause more emissions due to an average increase of the washing temperature.

Where lies the sweet spot between hygiene rule compliance and sustainability? Must there be a trade-off? Are there Best Practices to share?

Joanne  Hendrickx
Joanne Hendrickx
Founder at Travel Without Plastic
Marloes Knippenberg
Marloes Knippenberg
CEO of Kerten Hospitality
Andreas Koch
Andreas Koch
Managing Director at blueContec GmbH
Nancy Scanlon
Nancy Scanlon
PhD, Professor at Florida International University
Julia Massey
Julia Massey
Founder & Consultant, ESG Manager
Franziska Altenrath
Franziska Altenrath
Co-Founder at TUTAKA
Catherine Dolton
Catherine Dolton
Vice President Global Corporate Responsibility at InterContinental Hotels Group
Trevor Girard
Trevor Girard
Director of Standards and Accreditation at Hotel Resilient
Arjan van Rheede
Arjan van Rheede
Senior Research Fellow in Sustainability at Hotelschool The Hague
Willy Legrand
Willy Legrand
Professor of Hospitality Management at the IU International University of Applied Sciences, Germany
Frauke  Fischer
Frauke Fischer
Founder, Agentur Auf!
Henri  Kuokkanen
Henri Kuokkanen
Associate Professor at Institut Paul Bocuse

Unfortunately, I feel plastics may be the obvious short-term solution. However, I see this also as a great opportunity for innovation and disruptive thinking - after all, the goal is not to use plastic or harm nature but to keep guests safe. Therefore, I call for innovative entrepreneurs to explore sustainable ways of reaching the same goal. The prize for successful innovation is an attentive market of hoteliers.

Suzann Heinemann
Suzann Heinemann
Founder and CEO of InfraCert GmbH
Xenia zu Hohenlohe
Xenia zu Hohenlohe
Partner/Director at the Considerate Group
Kathy McGuire
Kathy McGuire
Principal Sustainable Development at 3 Pillar Solutions, LLC
Eric Ricaurte
Eric Ricaurte
Founder at Greenview