Biggest Cruise Company Yet to Ban Single-Use Plastics

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has become the latest travel company to move to eliminate single-use plastics, and one of the largest in the cruise industry to do so.

The company reports that all 50 ships across its fleet – including the Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, TUI Cruises and Pullmantur Cruceros brands – are eliminating plastic straws by the end of 2018, as part of a move toward a comprehensive plastics elimination program companywide.

Royal Caribbean ships have already begun implementing a “straws on request” policy over the past year; now, by the start of 2019, guests requesting a straw will receive a paper straw instead of a plastic one. Guests also will begin seeing Forrest Stewardship Council-certified wood coffee stirrers and bamboo garnish picks as part of the plastic-elimination strategy.

After straws, stirrers and picks, the company said that its next efforts will focus on other single-use plastics such as condiment packets, cups, and bags. A full plastics audit is underway, with the overall plan to be completed in phases by 2020.

Fellow cruise line Hurtigruten, an expedition brand, announced a plan to ban all single-use plastics by July 2 a couple of weeks ago. Similarly, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection and U by Uniworld are also eliminating single-use plastics by 2022 as part of a push by their parent company, The Travel Corporation. With six cruise brands and a market capitalization of over $22 billion, however, Royal Caribbean’s move could have a big impact outside of more boutique travel experiences.

Other, non-cruise travel brands are eliminating plastics as well. These include hotel companies Meliá Hotels International, as well as Hilton in the Asia-Pacific region, by the end of this year, and Bahia Prinicpe by the end of 2020. Alaska Airlines is also replacing its single-use, non-recyclable plastic stir straws and citrus picks with sustainable alternatives in its airport lounges and on all of its domestic and international flights by July 16.

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