Shows such as Blue Planet II have raised awareness of the problem of plastic pollution – now the cruise lines are starting to take responsibility for the seas they sail on.
There’s been a sea change in the way we think about plastic. Documentaries such as Blue Planet II and campaigns such as Sky News’ Ocean Rescue have raised public awareness, prompting governments, individuals and companies to look towards what once seemed impossible: a plastic-free future.
It’s worth repeating the staggering numbers behind the problem. In 2014, the most comprehensive study to date on plastic pollution around the world, found that over five trillion pieces of plastic are floating in our oceans, while a recent study found record amounts in the Arctic Ocean.
It is the reason why this year’s Make Holidays Greener campaign by Abta has a focus on plastic pollution, and why the largest cruise operators in the world are taking action. Earlier this year, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd said it would eliminate single-use plastics on all three of its lines – Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises – across its combined 38-ship fleet, but didn’t put a date on it. P&O and Cunard said they would ban single-use plastics from its hotel operations by the end of 2022 as part of its environmental programme.
At the time, Josh Weinstein, president of Carnival UK, the line’s parent company, said that “while we have stringent regulations and procedures on our ships for recycling, we need to go to the source of the supply chain to encourage changes to packaging and remove single-use plastic products from our hotel operation”.
Impressively, Hurtigruten, which has pioneered electric hybrid ships and regularly runs beach clean-ups on its cruises, has announced a ban on all “unnecessary” single-use plastic by the start of July this year. The line said that includes everything from plastic straws, drink mixers, plastic glasses, coffee lids and plastic bags, with the overall goal is to become the words first plastic-free cruise company.
Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam said: “While there is a lot of talk about the impact plastic has on our oceans, it’s time to take action. It is possible to act now, and the oceans do not deserve more hesitation.
“Hurtigruten operates in some of the most vulnerable areas in the world. This means that we carry a special responsibility to protect these areas for the local population and future generations of explorers.”
Responsibility is the key word here. The travel industry creates incredible experiences for millions, but they shouldn’t be at the expense of the environment. It’s up to us to make sure governments and companies go further. The future of the planet depends on it.