I have recently returned from a luxury transatlantic cruise traveling from Southampton to New York and although it was thoroughly enjoyable eating and drinking far too much, using the exceptional spa facilities and just generally relaxing, I couldn’t help but think what happens to all the food waste on board. This was a 7 day cruise with no stops and so there were no facilities in which to dispose these wastes.
The cruise ship in question could carry up to 3,000 passengers at a time with the expert chefs creating over 15,000 meals every single day not to mention keeping the all you can eat buffet topped up which ran from 6:30 am right through to 2:00 am the next morning (that is a lot of food!). On top of these meals there were also special culinary events such as the daily fruit carving creations (which I presume weren’t eaten) to a culinary chocolate spectacular in which a room around the size of large cinema was filled with the most amazing chocolate creations (it would’ve been rude not to partake).
In short, a lot of food waste passes through a pulper system which macerates it before it is discharged more than 12nm from shore. This is more than the statutory limit of 3nm but the volume of food waste generated by a cruise ship is clearly significantly higher than that of non-passenger ships. This implies that waste food is turned into a sort of ‘fish food’ even though I’m sure most fish have ever naturally come across eggs benedict, salmon en croute or Peach Melba!
I was naïve to think that such luxury liners with their ever increasing profits would invest in improving their green credentials however it seems that cruise liners are not obligated to improve such credentials apart from reducing GHG emissions. Maybe then they would be encouraged to change by environmentally aware customers- apparently not. Passenger numbers have subsequently increased year on year since 2008. With increasing customers why would cruise liners improve their environmental impacts if there would be no change in sales?
However when it comes to food waste, there are some cruise liners who are trying. Not surprisingly a company founded by a Scandinavian and Dutch consortium. By utilising a ships on board ‘food cycle’ to reduce, clean and sterilize organic food waste which can be used as a high grade soil amendment or fertiliser. So instead of fattening up sea life, waste cruise food can be turned into something useful and also make a little money!
Another initiative is to convert food waste into biogas, again look to those green Scandinavian countries. The port at Helsinki now has the facilities to collect ship bio-waste and transport it for processing which can then be used in vehicles. However this seems to be the only port in the world with this facility. Hopefully in the near future cruise companies will start to think of how to adapt to a changing climate and customer attitude instead of only thinking how to make a huge profit.
Blog post by Emma Sumner