A family in quarantine at a Dublin hotel has expressed shock at the "mountains" of waste plastic and paper that has built up in just one week of their stay.
Elaine Baker and her daughters Tara (10) and Jena (8) arrived from Tanzania, where Ms Baker had been living for the past 19 years, to the Crown Plaza hotel at Dublin Airport one week ago.
Ms Baker said she did not have a problem with the State’s quarantine system, or with the hotel and its staff, who she said had been “very helpful”. However, an “appalling” volume of waste was being generated through the use of plastic food containers, cutlery and paper cups, plates and bags.
“All our meals come in takeaway containers –, that’s three meals a day. We get deliveries to our door which we don’t even need and can’t even finish, and if we don’t take it, the whole lot gets dumped,” she said.
“Every meal comes with disposable cutlery, and even tea and coffee is in disposable cups. Every meal also comes in a paper bag.”
Ms Baker said she was taking some measures herself to reduce the amount of waste. “I asked my family to bring me in proper cutlery and proper coffee mugs, which I wash in the bathroom, using dishwashing soap and a sponge, again brought to me by my family.”
She has asked the hotel to deliver just two meals instead of three, to cut down on food waste, which she says staff mostly remember to do.
Ms Baker has also been saving and washing every plastic container delivered over the past week.
“I am washing and trying to find a way of sending them out to my family so I can try to find some way of reusing them later. I know if I give them to the hotel they will be dumped.”
‘Quite a mountain’
The volume of waste she had collected over a week was “quite a mountain”, she said.“This is just from one week, one adult and two children. I’m told there are around 150 people in the hotel now, and this is a system that is going to be in place for some time – it’s going to generate a huge huge amount of waste.”
Ms Baker said she understood the hotel was working within health protocols, but she pointed out that dishes are washed in hospital settings.
“I know we are dealing with Covid but do we have to completely forget about the environment? Before Covid hit the EU was on the cusp of banning single-use plastics. I do think there is a better way to deal with this.”
Prior to the introduction of the hotel quarantine system, Ms Baker, an IT specialist working with a sustainable energy company, had booked a self-catering apartment to quarantine in and she said the use of apartments or aparthotels for the State system could be more sustainable.
Apart from the waste problem, she and her daughters had not experienced any great difficulties with quarantine, she said.
“There are three of us in the room, there’s not a huge amount of floor space, but you can book 15 minute exercise slots. The exercise area is fenced off – it’s not very big, but there is grass and trees, it’s fine.
“I don’t oppose the quarantine system, I think it makes sense in principle. My issue is just with the waste, and I think there should be a way of improving that.”
When contacted, the hotel said infection prevention and control measures were being followed and all guests were asked to double bag their waste items for disposal. It was not possible to segregate and recycle plastics under this system, it said.