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Costa pilot of Sustainable Cruise Project advances waste reduction strategies

Costa Crociere
Costa Pacifica, left, served as the pilot ship for testing innovative waste reduction technologies and strategies
Advances in waste reduction were achieved during the Sustainable Cruise Ship Project co-funded by the European Commission within the framework of the European LIFE+ program and led by Costa Crociere.

Piloted on Costa Pacifica, the project tested innovative shipboard waste management models and techniques in line with the European Directive on Waste, and focusing on reduction, recovery and recycling. 

Costa designed the initiative and proposed it to the European Union together with the Academic Research Center for Sustainable Product Development (Centro interuniversitario per lo Sviluppo della Sostenibilità dei Prodotti) and the Italian companies VOMM, Contento Trade, Design Innovation, RINA Services and MedCruise.

Fifty percent of the project's funding, €2.7m, was provided by the EU.

Many significant results were achieved during the three years of the project, with work focusing on packaging, paper and biodegradable waste and setting up a network of ports to cooperate on waste management.

One innovative experiment was the installation of a turbo-dryer on Costa Pacifica to treat biodegradable food waste. This treats waste in two phases—first, cooking, then drying—to substantially reduce volume while retaining proteins and nutritional value so the remains can be recycled and marketed as raw material for animal feed.

Laboratory tests revealed the oil and fat derived from this biowaste processing, about 1.9% of the total, constitute a material that's potentially reusable as an energy source in the form of biofuel.

Regarding packaging, major results were obtained by replacing glass mineral water bottles—previously accounting for about 50% of the glass on board—by recyclable PET plastic bottles. More than 11,900 glass bottles per cruise were replaced, saving a total of 7,300kg of glass.

In terms of global warming potential, compared to an energy-intensive product like glass this equates to a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions or approximately 120 grams of CO2 equivalent per passenger per day and 342kg of CO2 equivalent per cruise day.

Similarly, replacing plastic yogurt containers by one liter Tetra Pak containers meant 6,500 fewer plastic containers or 33kg less plastic embarked.

The success of these sustainable waste management actions tested aboard Costa Pacifica has led to their introduction across the entire Costa fleet.

Equally successful was the part of the project aimed at reducing the generation of paper waste. More than 1,400 passengers were participated in activities designed to raise awareness about the sensible use of paper through a Creative Laboratories and Sustainability Quiz, while more than 18,000 Costa employees were targeted in paper-reduction campaign.

The volume of paper waste was cut by substituting digital versions of information that was previously printed on board. For example, the printed daily program was reduced by 50%.

Furthermore, the Sustainable Cruise Project opened possibilities for further turbo-dryer uses. Lab tests have shown that the prototype dryer can be used on board to recycle PET plastic, turning it into PET granules ready for new life cycles as plastic material with a further 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. And paper can be converted into semi-processed hygienic products suitable for use in the paper mill for recycling or usable as additives or biomass.

The project also tested the application of domestic and European requirements shipboard waste management and identified areas for improvement. In particular, current Italian regulations concerning waste landed ashore do not allow the material produced by the turbo-dryer to be classified as 'secondary raw material' even though it appears this material is suitable for use in subsequent processing.

Once it has been offloaded, the product treated and processed on board is regarded as waste and cannot be managed by Costa or marketed.

This was an important contribution because it provides direction for lobbying to amend the law to make it possible, and economically viable, to treat waste aboard ship so that it can be recovered and/or recycled when offloaded ashore. This provides a model for the industry as a whole, Costa said.

The project work was accompanied by efforts to enhance waste management and treatment services at port reception facilities. Some 52 Mediterranean ports were surveyed and studied on their waste processing facilities, resulting in the creation of a dedicated web platform to be updated twice a year.

Some of these ports will take part in a pilot scheme providing cutting-edge waste management services for a Costa ship during cruises next season.