COMMENT: Bye bye itty bitty bottles

By Colleen Isherwood, Editor

IHG made the news recently by saying it would replace those miniature toiletries with bulk-size products in its 5,600 hotels and 843,000 guest rooms by 2021. California may soon prohibit them too. Marriott and Starwood hotels are among the hotel groups already using bulk-size amenities in some of their brands. This is a great idea — but like many who heard the news, I’ve got some strong opinions on how it should be done!

Those miniature toiletries were always cute, but a bad idea environmentally. Sure I will miss having a stash of partly-used toiletries in a basket in my bathroom for guests to use, and spares in my makeup case for when I stay overnight at friends’ houses. But little bitty plastic containers that end up with remnants of shampoo, conditioner and lotion in them don’t make sense.

So… some questions on how the move to bulk containers will roll out. 

Usually the bulk dispensers are mounted on the wall of the bath or shower. While this is fine for those who take showers, it’s a pain for the small minority — including me — who prefer to take a bath. The containers are never at bath level. I usually get glass or plastic containers from the room and fill them with the required liquids before I sit down in the bath. If I’m using refillable glass containers, that’s okay, but if I’m using disposable plastic glasses, it sort of defeats the purpose.  

The containers on the wall are fine for parents giving their kids a bath, since they are usually around to dispense shampoo, conditioner and soap.

Which brings me to another pet peeve. Please don’t cheap out by just having one all-purpose liquid for shampoo, conditioner and soap.  I’ve stayed at hotels, some catering to families with children, that do that. Some of my grandkids use all-purpose liquids, but not me.  At home, I have separate shampoo and conditioner and won’t even consider a combined version of those two things. And soap is another animal all together!

Appearance is also important.  The bulk containers must look clean and sanitary — no drips and no dried up liquids in the corners. 

Security is another concern — they must be tamper proof so that unauthorized people can’t put nasty things in them.

And Colin Powell, the four-star general and former head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, made the best point of all at an IHG Conference ten years ago. Why is the printing on toiletries so small? It can defy anyone who uses reading glasses, much less those who have low vision. Who wants to wear glasses in the bath or shower? His idea was to put a big “S,” “C,” and “B” for shampoo, conditioner and body wash, so that the toiletries were easily identifiable!

Clean the World recycles soap for use in countries that need it.
Clean the World recycles soap for use in countries that need it.

What about the soap by the sink?  Will that be liquid too?  That makes sense, although I must admit I am impressed with the numbers out of Clean the World, which is recycling those half-used bars of soap and distributing them in countries that need them.

It will be an interesting journey, and I’m sure a lot of people just as opinionated as I am, will weigh in on social media.

— Colleen Isherwood, Editor