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Good News on Disposable Plastics

Back in May, I wrote about the many cruise lines that continue to sell water in disposable plastic bottles rather than encouraging and providing the equipment needed for guests to use refillable containers. I am happy to say that during the past month, three different cruise lines have announced efforts to eliminate disposable plastics across their fleets. It’s at least a good start, and it is hoped that the bulk of the cruise industry will soon follow suit.

First, on July 20, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and Virgin Voyages president and CEO Tom McAlpin announced that the company will eliminate single-use plastics as part of its aim to create one of the cleanest fleets at sea. This initiative includes banning plastic items on board, including straws, bottled water, other beverage bottles, condiment packets, shopping bags, food packaging, stirrers and take-away coffee and tea cups. Instead, the company will emphasize the use of recyclable and reusable materials across its ships, and guests will have access to complimentary filtered still and sparkling water at all bars, restaurants and specially designed filtered-water stations.

“We must make a commitment to building ships and experiences that do everything possible to look after the well-being of our precious oceans,” McAlpin said. “we will continue to push ourselves to look for innovative ways to do things that will make a difference.”

Incidentally, in homage to sister company Virgin Atlantic, Branson also revealed the name of Virgin Voyages’ first ship:  Scarlet Lady. This name, which appeared on one of the earliest planes to fly for Virgin Atlantic, will be paired with the brand’s iconic mermaid image on the hull of Scarlet Lady when she sets sail in 2020.

Next, on July 30, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which operates the Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands, announced its next step in reducing its environmental impact by eliminating single-use plastic straws across its fleet of 26 ships and two island destinations: Great Stirrup Cay and Harvest Caye. The company anticipates eliminating over 50 million plastic straws each year across its fleet with these changes. The company will be transitioning away from single-use plastics across its fleet and island destinations, thereby building upon its environmental efforts already underway to increase sustainable sourcing, minimize waste to landfills, invest in emerging technologies and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Then, on August 5, I heard from our friends at the Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection regarding that company’s continuing efforts toward becoming an environmentally conscious line. Uniworld is furthering its dedication to sustainability by committing to banishing all avoidable single-use plastics in its offices and onboard its ships by 2022.

As part of a joint initiative with parent organization The Travel Corporation and its not-for-profit foundation TreadRight, its efforts have reportedly already reduced plastic waste by 60,349 pounds; decreased chemical waste by 80 percent on Uniworld’s vessels over the past two years; eliminated all plastic straws, water bottles and related items from all ships and offices; and worked with outside contractors to avoid plastic wrapping on all supplies delivered to its fleet.

It’s heartening to hear that the cruise industry is beginning to implement practices like these. You can help speed these efforts by simply pointing out your concern with the continued use of disposable plastics next time you vacation at sea.