YHA remove half a million plastic bottles from network

YHA England and Wales run over 120 hostels in varied locations including metropolitan, coastal and rural areas. Many hostels are in or near National Parks and areas of outstanding beauty. Through 2018-19 YHA had over 900,000 people stay at their hostels, of which over 400,000 were young people.


In 2018, YHA reappointed SWRnewstar as its waste management partner, having first started to work together in 2011. The 2018 proposal identified a number of recommended changes to reduce waste at YHA properties, with particular focus on single use plastics.


YHA have enthusiastically taken on the recommendations and set an ambitious target “to save up to half a million plastic bottles a year from YHA sites by 2020”


A partnership with Refill is a key part of the project. Refill provide water stations and a free app to connect people with thousands of water points where they can fill their own water bottle for free. Following the success of initial trials at 4 hostels the scheme expanded to a further 20 sites and is currently being rolled out to another 60 hostels.


The project to reduce plastic usage in the hostels has tapped into growing awareness about the environmental impact of plastic. It supports the organisation’s wider ethos and resonates with guests. Schools groups staying at YHA sites with a Refill point are asked to bring a refillable water bottle. This avoids plastic bottles being included in packed lunches and encourages children to use the Refill points whilst staying, creating lasting habits.


Throughout the year the initiative has caught the attention of judges as well. First Hostelling International awarded a grant to support the growth of the project. Then YHA were 1 of 5 successful applicants to the Waitrose & Partners and Hubbub plastic fund. Following a national campaign to identify the most exciting and innovative plastic reduction schemes YHA secured a share of the £1m fund. This week the project has also been shortlisted in Footprint’s Waste2Zero awards – fingers crossed the winning streak continues!


By removing plastic bottles from the first 4 hostels YHA reduced usage by 100,000 bottles per year and once the full roll out is complete the objective to remove half million bottles from the hostels will be achieved by 2020. Congratulations to the team at YHA!

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YHA were 1 of 5 successful applicants to the Waitrose & Partners and Hubbub plastic fund, securing a share of the £1m available.
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