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Photo: Ørjan Bertelsen / Hurtigruten
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Plastic bags, plastic cutlery and plastic packing will soon be blasts from the past as Hurtigruten bans all single-use plastic from their ships. The environmental focus will be an important part of the total travel experience.

Published: 27 April 2018

Lately, there’s been numerous media reports on one of the looming environmental threats in our time – the enormous mountains of plastic floating in the world’s oceans, with potentially fatal consequence for aquatic life.  

The numbers are both grim and dizzying: Every minute of the day, 15 metric tons of plastic ends up in the sea. If the trend continues, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean within 30 years.   

Against this backdrop, the Norwegian cruise operator Hurtigruten makes a tangible commitment: As the country’s first company they’re in the process of removing all unnecessary single-use plastic from their ships, from plastic bags and cutlery to single-use packaging and disposable straws.  

This announcement follows several other eco-friendly measures from Hurtigruten, such as the decision to build most of their fleet into hybrid ships. On July 2, all single-use plastic will be banned from the company’s ships.

Cleaning tons of plastic

Hurtigruten

Hurtigruten.
Photo: Ørjan Bertelsen / Hurtigruten

“At Hurtigruten, we have focused on the problem with plastic pollution for years. There is a lot of talk about the impact plastic has on our oceans. But it’s time to take action. By getting rid of single use plastic on board all ships already by this summer, we will hopefully get others to follow. It is possible to act now, and the oceans does not deserve more hesitation”, Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam says in a press release.

Practically, this means an annual reduction of several tons of plastic on Hurtigruten’s ships. Single-use straws alone make for 2,8 tons of plastic waste each year, while 400 000 plastic glasses has the weight of about 5 tons.

Every year, Hurtigruten guests and employees cleans tons of plastic from beaches in the areas we operate. We witness the plastic pollution problem on a daily basis, and need to take action. Operating in pristine areas as we do, comes with a responsibility”, Skjeldam says.

Everybody must contribute 

Hurtigruten

Hurtigruten.
Photo: Ørjan Bertelsen / Hurtigruten

This is obviously an issue that concerns many Norwegians. In a recent survey, 72 percent of the responders stated that ocean plastic should be this year’s most important environmental priority in Norway. 82 percent responded that they believe Norway has a special responsibility for a healthy and clean ocean.   

Hurtigruten’s CEO points out that everybody needs to contribute to saving the ocean. The company is currently in talks with their external suppliers about reducing plastic. 

“No one can win the war on plastic alone without allies. This is why we implement high demands on our suppliers. Our goal is to become the world’s first plastic free first shipping company. This is our first step”, Daniel Skjeldam says.

Creating ambassadors

Hurtigruten

Hurtigruten.
Photo: Ørjan Bertelsen / Hurtigruten

Rune Thomas Ege, head of communication at Hurtigruten, explains that the company’s environmental focus is a permanent and important part of the total experience.

Instead of butlers and Broadway shows we have an expedition team on our boats, both along the Norwegian coast and internationally. Here, biologists, glaciologists, photographers, historians, outdoor experts and others both deliver lectures and join our guests on hikes on the mainland”, Ege says to Visit Norway.

He highlights beach cleaning days, where individual boats organize coastal cleanup, as an example of the Hurtigruten guests’ passion for environmentalism. In addition, passengers and crew always carry cleaning bags on their mainland hikes.

“Our goal is the same anywhere: To leave a place in a better condition than when we arrived.”

Ege emphasizes that Hurtigruten has had a green focus for years, and that many small steps may make a giant leap.

“This is all about making people feel it in real life, thereby making them green ambassadors. And they love it!”, he concludes.

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