We’re All About Islands; Just Not These Type of New Islands Forming In Earth’s Ocean

Primary tabs

We’re All About Islands; Just Not These Type of New Islands Forming In Earth’s Ocean

tweet me:
.@joshleibowitz, Chief Strategy Officer for @carnivalPLC, discusses plastic islands in new blog post http://3bl.me/z66b8q
Monday, October 12, 2015 - 10:15am

Blog post by: Josh Leibowitz, Chief Strategy Officer for Carnival Corporation 


That’s the famous one-word piece of investment advice that recent college grad Benjamin Braddock, played by Dustin Hoffman, received from one of his father’s friends in the classic 1967 movie “The Graduate.”  Turns out, it was pretty good investment advice.

Roughly 13 million tons of plastics are produced each year worldwide, so money invested in plastics 48 years ago likely would have earned you big financial returns. But all that plastic has created an enormous problem because nearly all of it is still with us – and will be, practically, forever.

The primary ingredients in the plastics used in all sorts of products ranging from automobiles and furniture to medical equipment and machinery – and, most commonly, in various types of packaging – are not biodegradable. That is, unlike organic garbage, they don’t breakdown over time and return to the earth as basic elements.

So if it’s not recycled for use in new plastic products – and only about 9 percent of plastics are recycled – and if it’s not still being used in houses and buildings, all that plastic is buried in landfills, interlaced in garbage heaps, or lying in various stages of partial deterioration across the landscapes of all six inhabited continents. Or, much to the surprise of most people, it’s floating, mostly in large clumps in earth’s oceans, forming multiple “garbage islands.”

Little of it is visible, either to satellites looking down from space or to passengers looking down from the decks of our giant cruise ships. That’s because as the sun bakes plastic it breaks down into ever smaller, even microscopic granules that float suspended in the upper layers of warm ocean water, typically just below the surface. There some of it gets ingested by fish and other ocean life that in some cases wind up on our dinner tables, while the rest of it has multiple other deleterious effects on nature’s balancing act.

The first “garbage island was discovered northeast of Hawaii, about 15 years ago. Since then another has been discovered floating 1,000 miles southeast of Japan. Each is bigger than the state of Texas. There’s another large one in the Atlantic. Plus there are smaller garbage islands and broad oceanic highways over which strong currents carry plastics and other debris between the known garbage islands and those areas where researchers expect still more garbage islands to form in the near future. These are all part of large, circular oceanic currents known as “gyres” (pronounced like “tires” but with a “g”).

As the world’s largest operator of cruise ships the existence of these garbage islands is a matter that we at Carnival Corporation & plc. take very seriously. They pose a significant threat to the environment, and especially to that part of the environment where we do most of our work and entertain our guests. As responsible residents of earth, and as a prominent commercial user of the oceans, we feel a special responsibility for that part of our environment. Indeed, we find it more than just a bit ironic that while we take hundreds of thousands of travelers to some of the world’s most beautiful and pristine islands, the oceans through which we sail are also home to these islands of debris and filth.

The scope and cost of any an effort to rid the oceans entirely of these plastic islands would swamp any nation or group of nations. But we refuse to use that as an excuse to do nothing. As part of our responsibility to be a good corporate citizen we recently published our corporate sustainability goals, which we expect to meet by 2020. We are pledged to improve our already very good environmental performance in many areas, including waste generation and recycling.

The first six of our sustainability goals are related to specific actions we will take and technologies we will use to make direct, positive impacts on the environment. The remaining four goals relate to policies and practices that will make the work and business environments experienced by our employees, vendors and others doing business with us or on our behalf a better place. We believe that will have indirect benefits for the environment. Our 10 sustainability goals for 2020 are:

  1. Reduce our carbon footprint by 25% vs. 2005.
  2. Develop, deploy and operate Exhaust Gas Cleaning systems across our fleet in order to reduce the amount of sulfur compounds and particulate emitted by our ships’ engines.
  3. Increase the use of Advanced Waste Water Purification Systems across our fleet by 10 percentage points vs. 2014
  4. Increase our use of shore power while ships are at berth (called “Cold Ironing”) so that their engines can be shut off. We will do this by adding that capability to more ships and working with the operators of the port facilities we use to make shore power available to our ships.
  5. Reduce waste generated onboard by 5% vs. 2010 (measured in kilograms of non-recycled waste per person/per day). We’ll meet that goal, in part, by recycling even more of our waste and by working with our supply chain to reduce the amount of packaging material they use – particularly plastics.
  6. Improve our onboard water use efficiency by 5% by 2020 vs. our 2010 baseline (measured by liters per person/per day).
  7. Continue to build a diverse and inclusive workforce and provide all employees with a positive work environment and opportunities to build a rewarding career to further drive employee engagement.
  8. Continue to build our commitment to protect the health, safety and security of our guests, employees and all others working on our behalf.
  9. Continue work on initiatives and partnerships that support and sponsor a broad range of organizations for the benefit of our local and global communities throughout our 10 Brands, and in particular Fathom, our newest brand focused on social responsibility and cultural exchange travel.
  10. Further develop and implement vendor assurance procedures to ensure compliance with our Business Partner Code of Conduct and Ethics.


    Claire West
    Keywords: Environment & Climate Change | Carbon Footprint | Climate Change / Global Warming | Conservation | Ecotravel & Tourism | Ethical Production & Consumption | Plastic | Recycling | Water | carnival | sustainability