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Royal Caribbean brands take first step in banishing single-use plastic

All 50 ships across the Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. fleet will ring in 2019 free of plastic straws. Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, TUI Cruises and Pullmantur Cruceros are eliminating plastic straws en route to comprehensive plastics elimination programs across their brands.

Paper straws, wood stirrers, bamboo garnish picks

For over a year now, RCL ships have begun implementing a 'straws upon request' policy. That program will be taken a step further by the start of 2019, when cruisers requesting a straw will receive a paper straw instead of a plastic one.

Passengers also will begin seeing Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood coffee stirrers and bamboo garnish picks as part of RCL's plastic reduction strategy.

'Healthy oceans are vital to the success of our company,' chairman and CEO Richard Fain said. 'For over 25 years, our Save the Waves program has guided us to reduce, reuse, and recycle everything we can. Eliminating single-use plastics is another step in that program.'

Next target: plastic condiment packets, cups and bags

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

Since 1992, RCL's Save the Waves program has brought best sustainability practices to the company's ships. The program introduced recycling centers on board ships, which are equipped with shredders, balers, and compactors, as well as crushers for glass, light bulbs, tin and aluminum. Their goal is 'zero landfill,' that is, all waste is reused, recycled or incinerated.

Waste-to-landfill rate one-eighth of US average

RCL already does that for its ships that operate in ports with appropriate facilities. For the rest, the average waste-to-landfill has been reduced to less than 0.5 pounds per day per person, under one-eighth of the US average.

Hurtigruten, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings are also working to stop plastic waste entering the oceans.