A zaijian – a common farewell, in essence ‘see ya later’ in Chinese – to single-use plastics is gaining momentum across Taiwan. For us, this goodbye is a welcome one, light on the zai and heavy on the jian – see ya, plastics.

At the forefront of this charge are the island’s people. Locals have, for many years, carried their own reusable metal or glass straws, usually with which to enjoy Taiwan’s favorite drink, bubble tea. And, last year Taipei took things a step further by banning plastic cups throughout the city. 

Next up is hospitality, with a recent announcement from Taiwan’s environmental protection administration outlining plans to reduce plastic in the industry. Phase one requires hotels to not provide single-use plastics unless specifically requested by guests, while phase two offers guests a discount of at least 5% for not requesting these items during their stay. This move is part of a larger island-wide push to reduce plastic waste, spurred by the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s 2020 Global Tourism Plastics Initiative. Many have answered this call-to-action to reduce plastic waste in the travel industry, including airlines, hotels, tour operators and the destinations themselves.

Mandarin Oriental is one such hotel group which has taken the single-use plastic revolution onboard swiftly, effectively, and, in classic Mandarin Oriental style, beautifully. I sat down with Mandarin Oriental Taipei’s sustainability champions, director of purchasing, Flora Tang, and quality assurance manager, Nicco Liu, to learn more about how these changes are being implemented, what it means for the guest experience and hear any advice they might have for other Taiwan hotels soon to follow suit.

Mandarin Oriental Taipei: Leading the Farewell to Single-Use Plastics
Mandarin Oriental Taipei, Presidential Suite

In 2018, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group pledged to eliminate all single-use plastics across its portfolio of 33 luxury hotels. Where is the hotel group at now with reaching that goal?

We have broadly achieved our target to eliminate single-use plastics where possible, achieving an estimated 99% elimination across our operations and diverting approximately 930 tons of plastic waste per annum from landfills. Supplier packaging is excluded from our estimated impact, although we continue to work closely with our suppliers to eliminate single-use plastics.

How is Mandarin Oriental’s single-use plastics policy implemented for in-room single-use plastics (ex. is it along the lines of not providing unless requested or is it even when requested, single-use plastic items are not available)?

The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group is fully committed to its single-use plastics policy, which is implemented with great diligence in our rooms. As part of our sustainability efforts, we no longer maintain an inventory of single-use plastic items in our accommodations. We have transitioned to offering sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives for in-room amenities. These alternatives are carefully selected to ensure they meet our high standards for guest comfort and convenience while adhering to our sustainability goals.

MO Taipei Suite Club Premier Bathroom
Refillable glass dispensers and unpackaged bar soap in the bathroom at the Mandarin Oriental Taipei
(pictured: Club Premier Suite)

How have you replaced classic in-room amenities with non-single-use-plastic substitutes? Are these new amenities the same across all MO hotels or are they location-specific?

To replace classic in-room amenities with non-single-use plastic substitutes, we opt for sustainable and environmentally friendly options. These amenities include bamboo toothbrushes, reusable wooden combs, biodegradable shavers and shower caps, refillable toiletry dispensers for items like shampoo and shower gel, as well as glass water bottles that are fully recyclable and reusable. The specific amenities offered may vary by location, and some properties may incorporate unique or locally sourced products to reflect the local culture and environment.

Bamboo toothbrushes, reusable wooden comb, biodegradable razor & glass bottled water at Mandarin Oriental Taipei
Bamboo toothbrushes, reusable wooden comb, biodegradable razor and glass bottled water at Mandarin Oriental Taipei
Mandarin Oriental Signature Quintessence Hair & Body Care Set in refillable pump bottles
Mandarin Oriental Signature Quintessence Hair & Body Care Set in refillable pump bottles

How have guests reacted to this change? Do you notify the guests in advance and/or ask them to bring their own items, or is everything still provided, just in a non single-use plastic form?

Guests’ reactions to these changes have generally been positive, as they align with global efforts to reduce plastic waste and promote living more consciously. We notify guests about our plastic reduction initiatives through various channels, such as our website, pre-arrival communication, and in-room information materials. Most amenities are still provided, but in a non-single-use plastic form, ensuring that guests have a comfortable and eco-friendly experience during their stay.

Mandarin Oriental’s pledge goes beyond just in-room single-use plastics, covering “spas, transport, restaurants and bars and in back-of-house areas not seen by guests, such as offices, colleague areas and kitchens”. Are there any interesting substitutions/changes in these areas that serve as an innovative example of plastic reduction?

Innovative examples of plastic reduction include using sustainable packaging for spa products, offering reusable containers for takeout or room service, and implementing plastic-free kitchen practices, such as using biodegradable or reusable kitchenware.

Mandarin Oriental Spa VIP suite
Mandarin Oriental Spa VIP Suite

As Taiwan moves forward with introducing the recently outlined single-use plastic ban for all hotels, is there any advice you would give to hotels who are just starting out with single-use plastic reduction measures across their operations?

Drawing from our own experiences, we humbly offer the following guidance for hotels embarking on their journey to implement measures aimed at reducing single-use plastic usage:

  • Conduct a thorough audit: Assess current plastic usage across all hotel operations to identify areas where single-use plastics can be reduced or eliminated.
  • Seek sustainable alternatives: Research and source eco-friendly alternatives for single-use plastic items, keeping in mind guest preferences.
  • Guest communication: Inform guests about the hotel’s plastic reduction efforts and provide information on how they can participate, such as requesting specific amenities.
  • Staff training: Train employees to implement and support plastic reduction initiatives across all departments.
  • Monitor progress: Regularly track and measure the hotel’s plastic reduction efforts to evaluate the impact and make necessary adjustments.
Mandarin Oriental Taipei Signature Fan
Mandarin Oriental Taipei Signature Fan

by Kendra Tombolato

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