AECO Reduces Plastic Consumption on Expedition Ships

Clean beaches and getting rid of unnecessary plastic on vessels are the top priorities for AECO’s environmental agent Sarah Auffret this summer. (Photo: Michelle Lin, Quark Expeditions).

The Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) announced it is spearheading an effort to significantly reduce disposable plastics on ships while also continuing to engage thousands of cruise passengers in beach cleanups in the Arctic.

It’s been a busy season for environmental agent Sarah Auffret, who was hired by the AECO in May to lead the association’s efforts to combat marine plastic pollution, AECO said.

Working from AECO’s Longyearbyen office, Auffret has visited 16 expedition cruise vessels sailing in Svalbard. The goal is to collect, systematize and later share best practices to help reduce plastic consumption on expedition ships.

The group is also working to enhance cruise passengers’ involvement in beach cleanups.

“It’s been great meeting people in the field and seeing how motivated and keen everyone is. Operators are becoming more aware of this issue. When I visit ships to assess how much disposable plastic is in use, it often opens up a very productive discussion on what they are using and what they can do better,” said Auffret.

AECO said many ships have already cut back on disposable products. This includes providing reusable drinking bottles, installing water dispensers and replacing plastic straws and individually wrapped products with sustainable alternatives. Operators are also asking suppliers to deliver goods in more sustainable packaging.

“Passengers are generally very enthusiastic about getting a hands-on experience in protecting the Arctic environment. This week, AECO is launching new cleanup guidelines to motivate passengers to be part of this important effort,” added Auffret. The cleanup guidelines are available on AECO’s website.

AECO is working with UN Environment to combat marine plastic pollution as part of the Clean Seas campaign, with financing from the Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund and the Norwegian Environment Agency. AECO’s Clean Seas initiative is also accepting donations through 1% for the Planet network.

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