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How maritime is tackling plastic waste

planets v plastics

Earth Day is on Monday 22 April – created to drive positive action for our planet. Tackling climate action is an important and difficult challenge that we face, and for us it’s a top priority. Every Earth Day can drive a year of energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to create a new plan of action for our planet.

This year’s theme is ‘Planet vs. Plastics’ and Earthday.Org is aiming for a 60% reduction in the production of all plastics by 2040 and to eliminate single-use plastics by 2030 to make a healthier planet. At the port, we’ve taken measures to reduce plastic waste, including water refill stations across the port, introducing new recycling bins for plastics and only using water jugs and not bottled water for meetings and events.

Our ferry and cruise operators are also making great strides in fight against plastic waste. Here are just a few examples:

Brittany Ferries

  • Since 2018 they’ve cut the number of plastic items used on board by over 5 million items each year, replacing them with environmentally friendlier alternatives made from bamboo, cardboard, paper and wood.
  • For example, they’ve drastically cut the use of plastic bags in bins – for example by introducing bag-free bins in cabins.
  • They’ve replaced plastic cups in cabins with cardboard cups (although these currently still contain a small amount of plastic).
  • They’ve stopped using plastic cutlery in their cafés.
  • They’ve eliminated plastic stirrers in their cafes and cabins.
  • They’ve installed shower gel dispensers in all cabins, replacing single-use sachets.
  • They’re constantly working with existing and new suppliers to review the products and materials used on board, in order to reduce plastics, and waste.
  • They’re also working to improve rates of recycling on board: currently around 90 per cent of glass and cardboard used on board is recycled.
  • Recycling bins in the passenger areas have been installed, with five waste sorting streams. A new project is underway, to allow a sixth stream, food waste, to be sorted too.
  • They are reducing use of plastic bags in onboard shops, issuing paper bags instead, and charging for re-usable, recyclable plastic bags, with a donation to ORCA.

Noble Caledonia

  • They have provided stainless steel water canisters for guests since 2016. They also remain with the vessel which is more sustainable. There are refill stations on board and they take large refill canisters ashore in hot climates. The cabins have water carafes not plastic water bottles.
  • Their bathroom amenities have been refillable since 2018. No miniatures.
  • Their buffet and catering is decanted into bowls so there are no miniature yoghurts and butter wrappers.
  • The bar has paper straws and coasters, no twizzle sticks and similar
  • The cabin dustbins are not lined with the thin plastic bag, they are bare.
  • The laundry is collected in cotton bags.
  • So all in all, there is almost zero unnecessary single-use plastics that could blow off the ship or end up in landfills.
  • They also do opportunistic beach clean-ups around the world.


  • They have refillable toiletries for guests and crew, which has been in place for over a year.
  • They’ve installed swim suit spinners in the spa and sauna area which removed the need for plastic bags.
  • Working with suppliers such as Ecolab and many others to use shrink wrapped blocks for products as opposed to traditional plastic pails – this means that 35% of plastic is used and these can be more easily compacted to produce less offload waste.
  • They are looking at supplying guests with a re-usable half-litre bottle for tours, therefore removing half-litre plastic water bottles. For crew, they are looking to undertake a similar project so that they do not need to buy 1 litre bottles but use a recycled bottle instead.

Virgin Voyages

  • They’ve banned unnecessary single-use plastics from the on-board experience. This includes straws, plastic water bottles, coffee cups, ketchup packets, cutlery, bags, coffee stirrers, and to-go containers.
  • They estimate that eliminating bottled water alone prevents more than 2 million single-use plastic bottles from entering the waste stream annually per ship.
  • They’ve reduced the use of disposable hospitality items by more than 60%, favouring refillable amenities and reusable containers wherever possible. This includes using reusable clamshells for their grab-and-go food and stackable containers for their food delivery service, “Ship Eats.”
  • When they do have to use disposables, they’ve selected recyclable materials or items sourced from sustainable sources. They aim to divert as much waste as possible from the landfill. Onboard they collect metals, glass, plastics, and soft goods for offloading in their primary ports. Additionally, they take back the recycling from their beach club operation in Bimini, Bahamas for processing in Miami.

As you can see, there is lots of work happening across the industry to cut down on single-use plastics. Where it plastics cannot be swapped, there is also a real drive to ensure plastic waste can be recycled and not end up in landfill or be incinerated.

If you’d like to cut down on plastic waste in your daily life, check out these top tips!