Hotels are finally banning mini plastic toiletries – here are the best alternatives

You may love the mini bottles of posh shampoos on your hotel stay, but 200m of them are dumped in landfill each year. There is a better way

The Blue Planet effect has swiped its keycard and entered the mainstream hospitality sector. In an effort to kick out avoidable single-use plastic by 2021, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) in the UK, will remove all small plastic toiletry bottles from its 843,000 rooms in 5,600 hotels.

If you’re a regular hotel guest, especially at low-cost chains, you may have already experienced the switch to those bulk dispensers and the multipurpose surfactants that promise to do multiple jobs: ie shampoo and condition.

But upmarket miniatures will be a loss. Brands such as Molton Brown are beloved by those who practise “the sweep”. This is when, in the dying seconds of your stay, you swipe a crooked arm across the bathroom surfaces and bundle every miniature into your suitcase.

At least there is a slim chance of them being used up. According to Gwen Powell, the founder of, a charitable initiative to recycle hotel toiletries, some 200m miniatures are unceremoniously dumped from UK hotels into landfill each year. Housed in plastic, they will remain for hundreds of years in rubbish dumps, giving future anthropologists the opportunity to ponder whether any human ever used more than a tablespoon of ginseng shower gel before ditching the bottle.

As hotels begin to shun miniatures – legislators in California are hoping to ban them altogether – it’s a good time to change your own habits. Avoid stocking up on over-engineered travel-sized toiletries or any pump dispensers that you cannot refill. If you do buy small, get an organic/eco brand such as Dr Bronner, and wash and reuse it afterwards. Better still, invest in a nice set of designated refillables – I consider the 14-piece bottle-and-jar set and travel cube from to be the Tupperware of the suitcase (Muji does an excellent selection, too) – and refill from your own bulk toiletries at home, refilling these in a bulk store.

Or there’s always Lush to restore your eco faith. The brand makes it easy to swap a bottle for a bar. Previously, many of its “naked” (plastic-free) range came in tins, which seemed a bit scout camp, but now you can get shampoo and conditioner bars in cork pots. By the way, these were recently delivered to Lush’s Dorset HQ by sail boat.


Lucy Siegle

The GuardianTramp

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