KUCHING: Six hotels here will be participating in the first-ever ‘Responsible Tourism’ initiative to raise awareness on proper management of food waste in order to reduce disposals to landfills as well as drive positive changes in the tourism industry.

They are Hilton Kuching, Riverside Majestic, Merdeka Palace, Grand Dormani Rajah Court Hotel, Kuching Park and UCSI Hotel.

The initiative was launched by Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah at Hilton Hotel here yesterday.

The project is initiated by Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) in collaboration with a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Worming Up — a social enterprise company which provides proper waste management services to redirect reusable, recyclable and upcyclable waste away from landfill sites.

Abdul Karim revealed that the Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata) has predicted that tourist arrivals will rise significantly in the Asia Pacific region in the next five years.

“The number of visitors is expected to increase to 760 million by 2021. This is expected to drive up the consumption of food and also generate more waste, an issue which has long been neglected and not properly addressed by the tourism industry.

“More waste usually translates into a greater environmental footprint and therefore, more harm to the ecosystem.

“For example, a hotel guest is estimated to generate up to 1kg of food waste per day on average,” he said.

The minister added, “Worming Up in its study has indicated that approximately 376 metric tons of organic wastes and around 3.9 metric tons of recyclables are collected throughout Malaysia every day.

“From the total amount, 50 metric tons come from hotels. Such numbers present huge impacts on our environment and food wastage in our backyard would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, behind China and the USA.

“It is therefore our desire to educate the local tourism industry on the importance of the initiative.”

Abdul Karim also hoped that the initiative could be extended throughout Sarawak within the next three years.

“This should also include restaurants, shopping malls and even schools,” he said.

“It may sound like a tall order but only through earnest desire to improve ourselves can we contribute to a better world for the future of our generation.”

He also pointed out that STB had started promoting responsible tourism to the industry players. For example, biodegradable or recyclable materials were being used at music festivals.