From Single-Use Items and Plastics
While plastics are, in many areas, fundamental to everyday life, they are unique examples of a “throw-away society” in which consumer goods are only used for a very short period of time – and in many cases, only once. This is in sharp contrast to a circular economy that is restorative and regenerative by design and where materials constantly flow around a ‘closed loop’ system, rather than being used once and then discarded. As a company, we are doing our share to contribute to a more circular economy where single-use items are drastically minimized and plastic does not become waste in the first place.
Supporting the global movement to reduce single- use consumption, in 2018 we started an initiative to evaluate our collective use of single-use items. We purposefully made the decision to focus not only on the usage of single-use petroleum-based plastics, but to also take a more holistic approach and tackle the issue of single-use items as a whole.
Our ongoing efforts to significantly reduce non- essential single-use items are a key part of our environmental compliance and stewardship program, Operation Oceans Alive. Launched in 2018 and now in its second year, Operation Oceans Alive continues to grow through procedural changes, educational and training channels, and perhaps most importantly, through our individual choices and actions. We are strongly committed to significantly reducing the purchase and consumption of non-essential single-use items, including plastics, on board our ships by 50% by the end of 2021. As part of our overall commitment to reducing our environmental impact, the objective to reduce the purchase and consumption of single- use items is also manifested in our Single-Use Item Policy, which went into effect in 2019. The policy prohibits the procurement of certain single-use items that are difficult to recycle or separate from food waste. In parallel, we established a single-use item cross-brand task force.
The task force consists of procurement and sustainability/environmental representatives from Carnival Corporation and all nine of the company’s brands. Together, the task force coordinates the reduction and elimination of single-use items and shares best practices such as identifying and sourcing environmentally friendly alternatives, using bulk and reusable containers, and more. We are also working closely with specific suppliers within our supply chain, sharing knowledge and ideas to identify new and innovative environmentally friendly materials wherever possible.
The phase-out and reduction plan has two phases and
aligns with our Single-Use Item Policy. The first phase
was completed by the end of 2019 with the sourcing of
approximately 80 million plastic items reduced, including
straws, cups, lids, stir sticks, cocktail picks, toothpicks,
and plastic shopping bags, which have since been
eliminated or replaced with sustainable alternatives
such as plant-based products or reusable options.
Additionally, 95+ million other single-use items, such as
paper serving packets and butter foils, were reduced
or eliminated. In 2018, we started replacing plastic
straws and cups on board our ships with non-plastic or
biodegradable alternatives. Some of our brands have
taken the commitment further by only providing non-
plastic straws upon request. The second phase for 2020
is underway and includes the elimination or reduction
of single-use items such as individual servings of select packaged food items, toiletry items, and chopsticks, among others. Additionally, we have started to explore alternatives to single-use plastic water bottles. On many of our ships we are already using glass water bottles or providing refillable options in the onboard restaurants. When we use plastic water bottles, they are incorporated into our plastic recycling program and landed wherever possible for recycling ashore. In line with the overall commitment, the completion date for the second phase of single-use item reduction targets is scheduled for the end of 2021.
Sustainable product alternatives include options that provide environmental, social and economic benefits while protecting public health and the environment over their life cycle. While it is easier to phase out and/or replace some items, it is more challenging for others. As part of the company’s stringent Health, Environment, Safety and Security (HESS) Policy and to comply with national and international regulations governing cruise ship operations, there are some single-use plastic items that cannot be completely eliminated, including plastic trash can liners in common areas, medical equipment and sanitary gloves, among others. As such, we are focusing on reducing single-use items that are not used for sanitary or health-related purposes.
While celebrating our successes in reducing single-use plastics, we continue to openly discuss the challenges we face in finding suitable alternative materials that can truly be considered more environmentally friendly. For example, an item labeled as biodegradable must meet certain standards where the product should break down relatively quickly rather than taking years, while at the same time, it must not leave any harmful residuals behind. The biggest issue we have found is the absence of a standard definition for the term biodegradable itself. With such varying standards and criteria, many products take an unsuitable length of time to break down and only do so at ideal conditions that are crucial to encouraging the process of biodegradability in the first place. We will continue to work with our supply chain to find suitable alternatives wherever possible.