Hilton Dublin Airport
Here are the bottles of body wash by Peter Thomas Roth filled with colourful microbeads. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

Miniature Toiletry Bottles in Hotels: What Really Should Be Done

If Ash Kalra has his way, personal care products in the form of miniature plastic toiletry bottles — which contain fewer than 12 ounces of liquid product — would be banned from lodging establishments in California.

Miniature Toiletry Bottles in Hotels: What Really Should Be Done

Holiday Inn Vilnius
In addition to bars of soap wrapped in plastic, the Holiday Inn Vilnius provided both liquid toiletries in miniature plastic bottles and in a wall dispenser. Please click on the photograph for a review of this hotel property. Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Kalra — who represents parts of eastern San Jose in the 27th Assembly District in the California State Assembly as a member of the Democratic political party — submitted an amendment to Assembly Bill number 1162 to prohibit lodging establishments in the state of California from “providing a small plastic bottle containing a personal care product to a person staying in a sleeping room accommodation, in any space within the sleeping room accommodation, or in an area that is shared by the public or guests” to be effective as of Sunday, January 1, 2023.

Moreover, the bill — which is an amendment to the California Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989, as administered by the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery — would require a state agency or “local agency with authority to inspect sleeping accommodations in a lodging establishment to notify lodging establishments of this requirement no less than one year before the requirement would become operative.”

Whether or not plastic tubes are also affected by the proposed bill is unclear at this time.

Lodging establishments which are found in violation of the law by an authorized state or local authority would be issued a citation:

  • Written warning upon a first violation
  • $500.00 for a second or subsequent violation — not to exceed $2,000.00 annually

Recycling Should Be the Answer

Take a look underneath that miniature plastic toiletry bottles when you are in the bathroom of your room at a hotel or resort property…

Miniature plastic toiletry bottle
Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

…and you will likely see that familiar triangular arrows symbol of the Resin Identification Coding System, which is a standard as specified by the American Society for Testing and Materials pertaining to recycling. For both of the bottles shown in the above photograph, the resin code is for polyethylene terephthalate, which is nicknamed by the more familiar acronym known as PETE.

All miniature plastic toiletry bottles for personal care products — such as shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and mouthwash as four examples — should be required to be manufactured by one recyclable material which had already been recycled. Perhaps that material can be based from a plant to be even more friendly to the environment.

Delta Hotels Banff Royal Canadian Lodge
Please click on the photograph for a review of the Delta Hotels Banff Royal Canadian Lodge, which is where this blue recycling receptacle were found. Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Lodging establishments should then be required to provide a receptacle in guest rooms especially for recyclable materials. Once the guest is finished using the product, he or she then properly disposes of that bottle into the appropriate receptacle.

Many hotel and resort properties around the world already have a similar system in place — such as the Delta Hotels Banff Royal Canadian Lodge, at which I stayed.


bar soap expiration date
Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

Some people who are concerned about the environment would suggest that most — if not all toiletries — should be in solid form instead of as liquids in order to eliminate the need for small plastic bottles. For example, soap is still supplied in the form of solid bars at many lodging establishments instead of body wash in miniature plastic bottles; and they usually are packaged in cardboard boxes, which are easy to recycle.

Hyatt Place Richmond/Chester
Please click on the photograph for a review of the Hyatt Place Richmond/Chester hotel property, which is where these bars of soap wrapped in plastic were found. Photographs ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

One problem is solid products which come wrapped in plastic, which usually cannot be recycled — but plastic wrap arguably better protects the product which is contained in it. If possible, a happy compromise would be to seal solid toiletries in a material that gives as much protection to the product as plastic, but can be easily recycled like cardboard.

Not everyone likes them, but certain shampoos and other products which are usually liquid in nature come in powdered form. Package them similarly in a recyclable material could also be another solution.

Are Wall Dispensers The Answer?

Aloft Seoul Gangnam
Please click on the photograph for a review of the Aloft Seoul Gangnam hotel property, which is where these wall dispensers were found. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

You may check into your room and notice that the familiar miniature plastic toiletry bottles are missing. Rather, dispensers are installed on the walls in the bathroom.

Because there is only so much room on the walls of the bathroom — as well as for aesthetic reasons — instead of separate products for the shampoo and conditioner or for shampoo, liquid soap and body wash, they are combined as one product in a single dispenser.

Park Inn by Radisson Budapest
There was no more shampoo or soap in the dispenser in the shower — but I found out too late while I was already attempting to shower. Please click on the photograph for a review of the Park Inn by Radisson Budapest hotel property. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

Another issue is that dispensers are not always replenished — especially if the dispenser is manufactured out of a translucent or opaque material with no clear indicator. This has happened to me more than once over the years whenever I attempted to take a shower. For example, once was at the Park Inn by Radisson Budapest hotel property, at which the dispenser mounted on the wall was clearly empty — unlike the other time at a Holiday Inn hotel property in Munich, at which a dispenser mounted on the wall was empty; but one could not determine whether it was full or empty due to the fact that it was opaque with no indicator.

The last thing I want to do is call housekeeping and wait until a member of the staff is good and ready to provide the product which I need to clean myself. I do not want to have to check if a wall dispenser has enough product whenever I want or need to use it.

Tru By Hilton Oklahoma City Airport
These dispensers were on the walls of the bathroom at the Tru by Hilton Oklahoma City Airport. Please click on the photograph for a review of this hotel property. Photographs ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Some wall dispensers are not easy to use at all — such as those at the Tru by Hilton Oklahoma City Airport, at which I stayed. Among other issues, I did not like how the product came out of the containers, as you have to squeeze both sides of the container itself for it to come out. Squeeze gently as instructed, and nothing happens; but too much came out when squeezing slightly less gently. Despite multiple attempts, I could not find a happy medium. The container is poorly designed overall.

According to this article written by Gary Leff of View From The Wing, other issues with wall dispensers include the following:

  • They don’t get refilled properly and when they do get refilled hotels are more likely to use counterfeit products.
  • They’re germ magnets.
  • And guests have been known to put stuff in them you wouldn’t want there. Even where there have been safeguarding locks in place I’ve had rooms where those weren’t locked.

Advantage: Wall Dispensers Versus Small Bottles and Tubes

The advantages of wall dispensers versus small bottles and tubes of toiletries and amenities include:

  • Less liquid product is wasted — guests can use as much or as little as desired
  • Reduced amount of trash in terms of the number of used plastic bottles, tubes and boxes which are disposed
  • Significantly more economical for each hotel and resort property as a measure of saving money
  • Less time for housekeeping to prepare the room
  • Small bottles and tubes already used by other people may not be replaced with fresh product; whereas the product inside of wall dispensers can be considered untouched by other people
  • More counter and sink space for guests
  • Wall dispensers contain more product for guests with long hair; while small bottles and tubes may not contain enough product

Advantage: Small Bottles and Tubes Versus Wall Dispensers

The advantages of small bottles and tubes of toiletries and amenities versus wall dispensers include:

  • Wall dispenser could be rendered useless if it falls off of the wall; is broken; or is simply not functional due to lack of proper maintenance
  • Dispensing product can be more difficult than necessary — such as pumping numerous times just to use enough product
  • Housekeeping staff must be called if wall dispenser was never refilled
  • Guests can potentially tamper with wall dispensers, depending on their designs
  • Potential contamination of germs with the number of people who use wall dispensers if they are not cleaned or disinfected properly
  • Guests can take small bottles or tubes of unused products with them, as they are convenient for traveling
  • Greater than ten million people benefited from the Clean the World Foundation, which integrates used soap — which would otherwise be discarded — and integrates it with a comprehensive water, sanitation and hygiene program
  • As with other environmental measures, wall dispensers are touted to guests as environmentally friendly when really the main focus may be to save the hotel or resort property money

Just Another Way to Reduce Costs For the Good of the Environment?

Holiday Inn Lisbon – Continental
This wall dispenser is at the Holiday Inn Lisbon – Continental hotel property. Please click on the photograph for a review of this hotel property. Photographs ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

“Another question is whether or not we want our legislatures regulating and targeting industries”, according to this article written by Shelli Stein for Point Me To The Plane. “I’d rather see hotels step up to the sustainability plate on their own, as Marriott has already begun doing. Marriott has already announced plans to install bulk dispensers in 450 of its locations. Besides being a cost savings measure, the company estimates the change will cut its plastic consumption by 250 pounds per hotel, amounting to 113,000 pounds globally every year.”

She is correct. Marriott International, Incorporated already started switching to larger bottles situated in racks mounted on the walls of rooms in 450 hotel and resort properties at five different brands; and intended to expand to 1,500 hotel and resort properties in North America by January of 2019 — while InterContinental Hotels Group introduced bulk dispensers mounted on walls in the rooms of hotel and resort properties at four different brands last year.

As I first noted in this article which I wrote on Sunday, May 6, 2018 with regard to the initiative to save plastic as part of the Serve 360: Doing Good in Every Direction of Marriott to refresh sustainability and social impact efforts by 2025, “Environmentally, the program is expected to save an average of 250 lbs. of plastic per year for a 140-room hotel — approximately 23,000 plastic bottles.”, according to this article written by Robin McLaughlin of Lodging Magazine. “Replacing small plastic bottles with the dispenser also positively impacts owners’ bottom lines, saving between $1,000 to $2,000 per year.”

Are these lodging companies truly concerned about the environment — or are they using these initiatives simply to improve their financial bottom line? Perhaps the answer is both are true — and if so, is that wrong?


Protea Samrand
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

I am a believer in a number of issues: reducing the amount of intervention by governments whenever possible without reducing the efficacy of protecting consumers; ensuring that we conserve the consumption of products so that there is enough to go around for everyone; and protecting the environment as much as reasonably possible…

…but although dispensers attached to walls in the bathrooms of lodging establishments could work in some cases, I am opposed to that being the norm for the aforementioned reasons described in this article.

Once implemented, some people will choose to ignore the recycling options which I have proposed in this article; and that is to be expected. All I know is that I recycle whenever possible; and if lodging establishments put forth an effort to help recycling be as easy as throwing something in a trash can, then the majority of guests should theoretically use them with no problem.

As for toiletries in solid form: if a guest uses the product and likes it enough to keep it, that person can easily transport it home aboard an airplane, as it would not be subject to the limitations of liquids imposed at airport security checkpoints. Protecting them in a recyclable product which is both sealed and resistant to water would be a winning solution.

As I reported in this article on Earth Day, Sunday, April 22, 2018, thousands of bars of used soap — as well as small plastic bottles of toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, mouthwash and skin cream — can be discarded from one single hotel property daily; and wall dispensers could help to significantly reduce that waste. I also like the idea of helping people to whom cleanliness is considered a luxury, which is where the aforementioned Clean the World Foundation comes in.

Regardless of whether a hotel property uses wall dispensers or small bottles and tubes of amenities is not going to significantly affect my trip either way. All I care about when I am a guest in a hotel room is that I am clean, comfortable, relaxed and refreshed while I am traveling.

All photographs ©2014, ©2015, ©2017, ©2018 and ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

  1. “All I care about when I am a guest in a hotel room is that I am clean, comfortable, relaxed and refreshed while I am traveling.”

    You give yourself short shrift. You do care about the environmental “stuff” (thus the analysis), but are as stymied as the rest of us in creating a solution.

    In my opinion.

    1. What I meant by that statement was pertaining to how the toiletries are available to me when I am traveling, colleen — although I can understand the confusion in the way I worded it.

      Yes, I do care about the environment; but I took it as a given when I wrote that statement.

    1. That reminds me, Billy Bob: I wonder if the proposed legislation will include portable sizes of deodorant which are given out upon request at hotel properties — such as those of the Hampton Inn brand, for example…

  2. Straws and tiny toiletries are destroying the world. Maybe people should be more concerned about all the electronics they purchase every year and throw away a year or two later.

    1. True James, and perhaps those companies that manufacture those electronics would make them to last more than a year. it seems Apple devices are disposable…like razors.

  3. As much as I hate liberal and green politics, I’ve always felt that it is incredibly wasteful to have these bottles get thrown away after one usage. They should, as you said, either be recycled or the wall dispensers should be used.

  4. Brian, the 30ml/50 ml toiletry bottles are not recycled by the large waste management companies.
    1, they are contaminated as not fully emptied and rinsed. No housekeeping staff ever are paid 1 minute per bottle to do that.
    2, waste management companies do no pick up the small items on the conveyor belt in their plant. Going to scrap and then landfill or sold to Malaysia ending up on the street really.

    Your disadvantage list about about the wall mounted dispensers are incorrect.

    1, it takes seconds to disinfect the dispensers between guests. It takes less time then collecting the toiletry bottles from all over the bathroom, sanitizing the amenity tray, replacing the bottles.
    2, they rarely “fall off”, I have been using them for 2 years. 3 “fell off” due to drunk guests tearing them down.

    Clean the World is a good initiative. Charging approx £300 in London per month. It is reasonable to enter their program.

    Hotels do not care about the environment. They care about the profits. Green washing might increase their profit.

    We use a local program that offers wider benefits to the community vs Clean the World. It looks good on our CSR, that is why we entered.

    I beleive luxury hotels should educate their guests that avoiding consumption is the real luxury. Because luxury hotel guest can actually afford being considerate, they do not actually need another dozen miniature bottles half used in their hotel bathroom.
    If hotel scarp miniature and every day linen change simply out of self interest that will do for me.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!