Walking down the Las Vegas strip, one might think that the city that never sleeps is anything but sustainable. The lights never go off, the buffet tables are always full and the open entrances push air conditioning out onto the sidewalks. But, what happens behind the scenes might surprise you.
On a recent vacation with my husband, I stopped in Sin City to visit with a reader and was granted a behind-the-scenes tour of one of the strip’s popular resorts. In addition to discussing the impressive housekeeping operation for such a large hotel, we specifically addressed a number of sustainable initiatives in place.
Of course, the resort features what has become almost common-practice in hospitality, a linen reuse program. Encouraging guests to reuse towels and sheets has resulted in millions of dollars saved in water and labor. But what most impressed me is their recycling program.
I learned that many of the resorts on the Las Vegas strip participate in a very unique conservation of waste program. And it seems it was necessary to do so, since in 2019, a record 42.5 million people visited Las Vegas and each reportedly generated more than 4.5 pounds of trash a day.
The sustainable efforts all take place back-of-house where staff begins the process by sorting trash to reclaim silverware, plates and linens that unintentionally end up in the waste stream. These unintended throwaways are recovered and processed, saving the hotel thousands of dollars monthly.
The remaining trash — 40 percent of which is excess food — is then either used as compost or taken just 20 miles off the strip to a pig farm where it is sorted for recycling.
The food scraps feed the farms’ 5,000 pigs, while the plastic, glass, aluminum and cardboard are sent to recycling plants for reuse. Going full-circle, the manure collected at the farm is reused as fertilizer, and the pigs that consume top chef delicacies are butchered and sent back to the restaurants on the strip.
In addition to waste recycling efforts, excess foods from Las Vegas hotels are also donated. For example, the Associated Press reports that expired minibar snacks are donated to local community organizations. Meals that were created and cooked for banquets and conventions, but were never served, are donated to food banks. Even oyster shells are being reused. Over 20,000 pounds of shells are shipped to Chesapeake Bay where they are used to help restore the oyster habitat.
Overall, the efforts cut back on what Las Vegas hotels were sending to the landfill by thousands of tons of waste a year.
Las Vegas is a city that is known for its excess, and there is certainly more that can be done to reduce its environmental impact. But it’s good to know that the resorts are always looking for new and different ways to improve sustainability.