On a typically sweltering day in Miami Beach, a pool attendant at the Fontainebleau was patrolling the deck to make sure all of the guests were satisfied. Peering through his black-rimmed sunglasses around the pool, he knew where guests liked to mingle and which glasses of lemonade and booze needed topping off. The one thing he didn't know: where the heck to recycle plastic on the Fontainebleau property.
"I'm genuinely shocked that a beachfront property doesn't recycle," says Gabrielle Prescod, a fashion editor for Bustle who visited the Fontainebleau in May.
Prescod tells New Times she was offered only single-use plastic cups during her stay, and whenever she asked where she could recycle, she was told the hotel didn't do that. It was baffling to her because she had been to other hotels in the area, such as 1 Hotel South Beach, that prided themselves on being eco-friendly.
Miami-Dade County is one of the worst in South Florida when it comes to recycling. Florida Department of Environmental Protection data shows that only 16 percent of Miami's solid waste was recycled in 2018, compared to 29 percent in Broward and 41 percent in Palm Beach.
Certain cities have taken steps to buck the trend and be better stewards of South Florida's unique environment. Miami Beach, in particular, passed an ordinance in 2012 requiring households and commercial businesses to have a recycling plan or face fines from the city. But how far that policy reaches at one of the Beach's most iconic hotels remains to be seen.
On a recent morning, New Times visited the Fontainebleau to find out if the five-star resort really is contributing to Miami's recycling deficit. A quick scan of the glamorous lobby showed plenty to enjoy for the beach's bougie elite: huge crystal light fixtures, a fully stocked bar, but no recycling bins.
Concierge staffers said that recycling bins are kept in the office and that they take any plastic bottles guests may try to ethically dispose of. All of the bins on the beach and near the pool, they said, are recycling bins used for plastic cups. Employees outside the hotel said otherwise, however.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Miami New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Miami's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Asked about recycling bins, pool attendants seemed confused, saying there were only trash cans by the pool. Cabana managers and the cleaning crew on the hotel's beach property were equally unaware of any place to recycle the plastic cups they served drinks in but kindly offered to throw away waste in the metal trash bins that line the sand.
At the neighboring Eden Roc, meanwhile, the concierge said the hotel does not put out recycling bins for "aesthetic purposes" but, similar to the Fontainebleau, claims to recycle in a "back office."
Spokespeople for the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc did not respond to multiple requests for comment. A spokeswoman for the City of Miami Beach said the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc were not among the 21 businesses cited for failing to have a recycling program between July 2018 and now.
Prescod says that as someone who tries to help the environment in small ways, she was appalled by her experience at the Fontainebleau. "Any plastic dumped within ten miles of the water is likely to turn up in the ocean, and for a hotel that's so expensive and so close to the beach, this is irresponsible," she says.