I recently had the opportunity to call a new place home for 14 nights. This new home is a magical place where you can throw your towels on the floor and they get cleaned and replaced twice a day. There is also a never-ending supply of food and drinks. Some compare this place to a floating city. Yes, I am talking about being on a cruise ship.
Cruising is becoming a popular vacation choice. The lure is being able to see the world, have five-star service, and access the amenities of most all-inclusive vacation resorts. Some ships even have Broadway production shows, casinos, indoor ice-skating rinks, rock climbing walls, and surf and golfing simulators on board!
Most cruise ships carry an average of 2,500 passenger and crew aboard. The largest ship in the world carries over 6,000 passengers and crew. Most cruises average seven to ten nights. It is estimated there were 20 million cruise ship passengers around the world in 2012, of which 11 million passengers were North Americans.
You can only imagine the amount of resources required and the amount of waste generated on one single cruise. Most of the waste generated on cruise ships is burned or grounded and discharged into the sea. Recyclables, mostly plastic bottles and aluminum cans, are collected and stored until they can be brought ashore for recycling.
Waste activities on board cruise ships are governed by the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL Annex V). Waste management can be a challenge for ships as they are often travelling to foreign ports-of-call with no waste management standards, similar to airplanes.
I observed a very interesting sign that was posted in a very public space about discharging garbage at sea. Do we not know better than to litter at sea? Many of us are familiar with how waste is accumulating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
As passengers, we have a duty to minimize our environmental impact when we are on vacation. With more and more tourists going on cruises, hopefully cruise ship designers and operators will become more environmentally conscious and ensure that more on board waste can be reduced, reused or recycled.