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beach cleanup (photo - chelsea claus:hurtigruten)
Pitching in to clean up an Arctic beach PHOTO: Chelsea Claus/Hurtigruten

Arctic cruise operators mark World Cleanup Day

World Cleanup Day is Sept. 21. However, the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators said that for its members, every day in the field is a cleanup day.

Throughout the Arctic cruise season, expedition ship passengers choose to put away their binoculars and roll up their sleeves to collect litter from Arctic beaches. These volunteer efforts are part of the industry’s quest to combat marine plastic pollution.

Litter is carried by ocean currents to remote beaches

Going on an expedition cruise in the Arctic means getting close to nature and experiencing remote and special places. While the ships follow a strict policy of leaving no trace from their visit, passengers and crew often find marine litter that has been carried by ocean currents and ends up on these remote beaches.

Fortunately, AECO said, visitors are eager to help.

AECO members have been involved in beach cleanups in the Arctic for almost two decades. These efforts have intensified over the past two summers after the association joined the UN-led Clean Seas campaign.

Cutting back on single-use plastics

As part of these efforts, AECO is working to drastically cut back on single-use plastics on Arctic expedition cruise vessels, as well as enhance cruise passengers’ involvement in beach cleanups. AECO is also focusing on educating passengers, staff and the public on what they can personally do to reduce single-use plastic and prevent it from ending up in the ocean.

AECO’s environmental specialist Melissa Nacke said there is great initiative in the expedition cruise industry to be part of the solution.

Engaging travelers

‘We see that members regularly involve passengers in beach cleanups and use this as a starting point for educating guests about the problem of marine plastic pollution. We are celebrating World Cleanup Day on September 21, but for our members, every day in the field is a cleanup day.’

AECO members are also working to reduce single-use items on their ships, for example, disposable water bottles and plastic food containers.

‘We believe that making these visible changes can help raise awareness among passengers and inspire more conscious consumer habits,’ Nacke added.

In addition, AECO has developed guidelines targeted at visitors to the Arctic. These provide travelers with information on ways to reduce their waste and plastic footprint before, during and after their trip.

See also ‘Replacing plastic: The battle has begun,’ the cover story of Seatrade Cruise Review’s September issue