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Marriott, the world's largest hotel chain, plans to eliminate single-use plastic toiletries by 2020

Cleaning up the plastic in the ocean
Cleaning up the plastic in the ocean 26:53

The world's largest hotel chain is working to reduce its environmental impact. Marriott International will eliminate small plastic toiletry bottles by December 2020, the company announced Wednesday. 

Marriott, which operates more than 7,000 hotels worldwide, plans to replace all of its single-use bottles of shampoo, conditioner and bath gel with larger pump bottles in hotel rooms globally, the company said in a press release

The announcement echoes initiatives by Holiday Inn and its parent company, InterContinental Hotels, which announced a plan last month to ditch its tiny toiletries in more than 5,600 hotels by 2021. Last year, Walt Disney Co. also pledged to reduce plastic in guest rooms by 80 percent through switching to refillable toiletries in hotels and on cruise ships. 

Marriott said over 1,000 of its properties across North America have already made the switch. The aim is to prevent about 500 million plastic bottles — about 1.7 million pounds of plastic — from entering landfills annually. According to the hotel chain, that's a 30 percent annual reduction. 

"This is our second global initiative aimed at reducing single-use plastics in just over a year, which underscores how important we believe it is to continuously find ways to reduce our hotels' environmental impact," said Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International. "It's a huge priority for us." 

The hotel chain said one of its large, pump-topped bottles contains the same amount of product as 10 to 12 tiny, single-use bottles, most of which are never recycled. 

Hotel chains around the world may soon be forced to follow suit. Lawmakers in California are considering banning hotels from using small shampoo bottles in 2023, while the European Union is banning a wide range of single-use plastic items, like cutlery and plates, by 2021, the Associated Press reports

Despite global efforts to curb the problem, plastic use is expected to increase through the next decade as oil and gas companies double down on petrochemicals production. Many environmental activists say the U.S. should halt plastics production altogether.

Scientists have warned about the increasing dangers of plastic waste in our oceans, in part because plastic trash gets into the marine food chain. Recycling is only a partial solution because most products cannot be recycled, and plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose.

Large amounts of discarded plastics have been found in dead sea animals around the world in recent years. Most recently, a beloved dugong whose rescue went viral in Thailand later died with a stomach full of plastic waste. 

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