Circular economy: NH Hotels recycling bottle corks into construction materials

by | 22 Jan 2020 | Chains

(Photo: Pixabay)

NH Hotels has insulated 300 new rooms with recycled cork stoppers since 2011, collected by restaurants in 74 hotels in Spain and Italy.

Framed by its commitment to caring for the Planet, NH Hotel Group has reinforced its flagship circular economy initiative – CORK2CORK – thanks to which it gives a second life to the cork stoppers collected at the restaurants located in some of the Company’s hotels.

The goal of the project is to recover and recycle the cork stoppers from wine bottles in order to provide them with a new application, specifically converting them into covering and insulation materials for subsequent use in building new rooms. In addition to acting as a heat insulator, this recycled material reduces noise pollution and the need for artificial temperature control, thus enhancing the rooms’ and overall hotel’s energy efficiency.

It is a pioneering initiative in the European hotel sector which dates back to 2011, when NH Hotel Group conceived of the idea together with the leading producer of cork and cork covering materials, Amorim. Encouraged by the strong results to date, having collected 1,994 kilograms of cork for reuse in the construction of 300 new rooms (around 8,000 sqm), the Group is looking to step up the programme by collecting not only cork stoppers but also other hotel products for recycling and utilisation.

In the words of Rufino Pérez, Chief Operations Officer at NH Hotel Group: “Although the volume of cork used in our hotels is not that material, it is relevant in our restaurant and event operations. That is why we have sought to reinforce this circular economy and material efficiency initiative to ensure we continue to deliver the encouraging results obtained to date.” He added that “in addition to helping reduce our corporate carbon footprint, CORK2CORK pushes us to do better in managing the waste generated at our hotels.”

As part of the reinforced initiative, 74 hotels in Spain and Italy will participate in collecting this material in containers that will be on display in the hotel restaurants. That way our guests will be able to witness how the corks are set aside and collaborate with the initiative directly.

New lease of life for cork

The cork sector has a very positive impact on the environment. Cork oaks, the trees from which this material is sourced, retain five times more carbon dioxide than any other tree. Moreover, the carbon emissions associated with cork stoppers are significantly lower relative to those related to stoppers made from aluminium or synthetic materials.

“We are proud that our collaboration with NH Hotel Group has enabled us to give the 1,994 kilograms of cork we have recycled a second life. During this next phase, we hope to make people even more aware of the importance of a circular economy. We have all held a cork in our fingers. If we come to realise that it can also be used to make a room quieter and more comfortable, we will be taking a major step towards achieving such an economy. The small gesture of recycling the corks collected via the containers available in the chain’s 74 hotels in Spain and Italy can make a real difference” said Mário Pinho, Business Development & Marketing Manager at Amorim.

According to Amorim, each cork stopper has absorbed approximately 112 grams of carbon dioxide over the eight years in which the programme has been up and running. Thanks to CORK2CORK, the emission of 37,221 kilograms of carbon dioxide has been avoided since 2011, thus contributing to the configuration of a low carbon economy.

NH Hotel Group and environmental sustainability

CORK2CORK is one of the multiple environmental protection initiatives pursued by the Company. Framed by the Room4Planet concept, the Group undertakes projects aimed at reducing the consumption of natural resources, tackling climate change, obtaining environmental certifications and managing waste more responsibly. All of which reduces the Company’s carbon footprint and ensures the responsible consumption of natural resources.

Since 2007, NH Hotel Group has been working to reduce its environmental impact along four dimensions. On the energy consumption front, it has managed to reduce its energy consumption, water consumption and carbon footprint per room and night by 31%, 27% and 67%, respectively.

As for waste generation, it estimates that the hotels recover 60% of the waste produced for recovery and new uses, thus avoiding dispatch to landfills. It achieves this thanks to practices such as the sorting of the rubbish left in rooms and communal areas. The Company is continuing to work on improving its performance and reporting effort in this arena.
In addition, 150 of the chain’s hotels boast globally-recognised external sustainability certifications, such as the ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 environmental and energy management system standards, respectively, Green Key, BREEAM and LEED.

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