Plastic Reduction Case Studies

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Su, Shengyuan
Li, Yazhou
Maschal, Emma
Ha, Yuejiao


Klein, Emily M.

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Plastic is one of the most commonly-used and convenient materials in most societies around the world. The use of plastic is increasingly controversial, however, due to its negative impacts on the environment, biodiversity, and human health. Two particularly plastic-intensive industries, hotels and restaurants, have initiated efforts to reduce, recycle, and reuse plastic in their operations. This project aims to investigate current plastic reduction practices in the restaurant and hotel industries, and to provide practical strategy suggestions for the improvement of sustainability performance in these and related business sectors. Focusing on the practices of five partner restaurants and five partner hotels, we collected information through phone interviews, an online survey, and online research. This revealed each company’s basic operation, plastic usage, plastic reduction initiatives, and motivations to promote plastic sustainability. We found that although the sample companies have adopted initiatives to reduce plastic and have achieved some success, all of them encounter significant challenges. In addition, there are differences between the hotel and restaurant sectors, as well as among different companies within each sector, in terms of the scales, types, and motivations for plastic reduction. Synthesizing the information we collected, we provide several practical strategies and recommendations for the restaurant and hotel industries to develop plastic reduction practices, and to communicate their initiatives, progress, and performance to the public. For example, we advise that restaurants and hotels cooperate with non-governmental organizations, government programs, and high-tech companies to gain additional support for their plastic pollution reduction initiatives. In addition, it might be an effective strategy to provide financial incentives to change consumers’ behavior of plastic usage. Other suggested strategies include material replacement, recycling and reuse, educating staff to improve the employee engagement, and cooperating with responsible suppliers. This initial study can be expanded in the future to include more sample companies in these two industries, as well as other plastic-intensive industries, such as airline companies and supermarket stores.





Su, Shengyuan, Yazhou Li, Emma Maschal and Yuejiao Ha (2015). Plastic Reduction Case Studies. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.