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  • Rob Furness

The Alarming Reality of Food Waste in the Cruise Shipping Industry: A Call to Action!

Updated: Apr 4


A cruise ship sailing into the sunset

Join us as we dive into the pressing problem of maritime food waste in the cruise ship industry. From examining the root causes to exploring the consequences, we'll uncover the major challenges facing the industry. But don't worry, we won't leave you hanging! We'll also reveal innovative solutions, including on-site food digesters, which have the potential to revolutionize the way the industry tackles food waste. Get ready to be inspired and learn how you can be part of the solution.


As of November 2022, there were 302 operational cruise ships with a capacity of over 660,000 [1]. Assuming 3 meals a day are eaten by everyone that is over 1.9 million meals a day, estimates of food waste are around 30%, which is usually discharged at sea, the big problem here is fish normally don’t eat hamburgers it is not a natural food source.

Pre-pandemic in 2019 29.7 million passengers took a cruise, by 2021 when cruise ships resumed voyages that number had dropped to 13.9 million [2], still, that equates to approximately 41.7 million meals (based on 3 per day) with an average of ½ pound or 0.22kg waste per meal [3]. Meaning that over 20 million pounds or 9 million kgs of food waste annually, including leftover food, kitchen waste and uneaten food.


Below is a list of challenges faced by cruise lines, however, whilst we are focussing on cruise ships remote location hotels in protected habitats also face similar problems, and the solutions discussed are transferable to university campuses, large hotels, theme parks, hospitals and shopping mall food courts to name a few.


1. Overproduction of food leading to waste.

2. Inefficient food storage practices.

3. Lack of proper tracking and management systems for food waste.

4. Insufficient planning and management of food supplies.

5. Poor waste management facilities on ships.

6. Limited waste reduction and recycling programs.

7. Challenges in keeping freshness and quality of food during extended voyages.

8. Varying Portion sizes

9. Incentive structures that prioritize cost savings over sustainability.


A buffet selection of desserts and sweets

Overproduction of food leads to waste.


Overproduction of food is a significant issue in the cruise ship industry, leading to a substantial amount of food waste. The demand for a variety of food options, buffets and 24/7 availability of food can drive the kitchen staff to prepare more food than necessary. This often leads to overproduction and waste. Furthermore, with many cruise ships sailing for days or even weeks at a time, it becomes challenging to keep the freshness and quality of food. This can result in uneaten food being discarded, contributing to the problem of food waste.


Moreover, to keep up with passenger demands, cruise ships tend to stock up on an excess of supplies, which can also result in overproduction and waste. The excess food is often prepared in copious quantities and left uneaten, contributing to the problem of food waste.


To combat the issue of overproduction and reduce food waste, cruise ships can adopt better inventory management systems and implement planning and preparation practices considering the actual demand for food. Additionally, ship operators could implement training programs for kitchen staff to reduce food waste, improve food efficiency, and establish partnerships with local organizations to donate excess food to those in need.



Inefficient food storage practices.


Inefficient food storage practices can lead to food waste in the industry. Without proper storage, food can spoil quickly, become contaminated, or lose its freshness, leading to its disposal.


Cruise ships often face limited storage space and limited access to refrigeration, making it challenging to keep food fresh and stored at the correct temperature. Additionally, with a large variety of food options on board, storage areas can become cluttered, making it difficult to organize and manage food supplies.


To reduce food waste through improved storage practices, cruise ships can invest in modern, efficient refrigeration and storage systems. Adequate training of kitchen staff on proper storage techniques, such as the rotation of food items, can also help reduce food waste. Proper labelling and tracking of stored items can also help ensure that food is used before its end date.


Finally, the implementation of a food waste monitoring system can help track the amount of food that goes to waste and identify areas for improvement in storage and management practices. Overall, improving food storage practices can not only reduce food waste but also improve food safety and overall quality for passengers.


A large cruise ship buffet.

Lack of proper tracking and management systems for food waste.


The lack of proper tracking and management systems for food waste is a significant issue in the industry. Without accurate tracking and monitoring of food waste, it becomes difficult to assess the extent of the problem and identify areas for improvement.


Cruise ships often operate with limited resources, making it challenging to invest in tracking and management systems for food waste. Additionally, with a large number of food items on board, it can be difficult to track food waste at a granular level, making it challenging to identify specific areas for improvement.


To reduce food waste, cruise ships can implement tracking and management systems to accurately measure the amount of food waste generated. This can include the use of digital systems such as food waste tracking software or manual tracking methods such as recording daily food waste.


Accurate tracking of food waste can help show trends, such as which types of food are being wasted the most and inform targeted solutions. It can also help ship operators to monitor the effectiveness of their waste reduction efforts over time.


Overall, proper tracking and management of food waste is crucial in reducing food waste in the cruise ship industry and promoting sustainability.


Lots of food being prepared for a large amount of guests

Insufficient planning and management of food supplies.


Insufficient planning and management of food supplies is a major issue, leading to food waste. Cruise ships often face challenges in accurately predicting the demand for food, resulting in overproduction and waste.


Planning for food supplies requires a thorough understanding of passenger demographics, dietary restrictions, meal preferences, and historical data on food consumption. However, the dynamic nature of cruise ship operations, such as changes in passenger count and itinerary, can make exact planning and management difficult.


To reduce food waste, cruise ships can adopt more advanced planning and management techniques. This can include using predictive analytics to forecast demand, implementing real-time monitoring of food consumption, and incorporating feedback from passengers and kitchen staff.


Cruise ships can also implement food waste reduction programs that aim to minimize overproduction and promote the use of surplus food. This can include utilizing leftovers in creative ways, such as incorporating them into new dishes or donating excess food to local communities.


By implementing better planning and management practices for food supplies, cruise ships can reduce food waste, improve efficiency, and promote sustainability in their operations.



Compost, waste and recycling wheely bins

Poor waste management facilities on ships.


Poor waste management facilities on ships contributes to food waste. With limited space on ships, managing and disposing of waste can be challenging, especially when it comes to food waste.


Most cruise ships do not have adequate waste management systems in place to effectively manage food waste, leading to problems such as spoilage, odour, and contamination. Furthermore, with limited access to proper waste disposal facilities in ports of call, cruise ships can face difficulties in disposing of enormous quantities of waste, including food waste.


To address the issue of poor waste management facilities on ships, cruise ships can invest in modern waste management systems that are designed to effectively manage food waste. This can include installing proper waste storage facilities including food digesters, such as refrigerated containers, to minimize spoilage and contamination.


In addition, cruise ships can adopt better waste management practices, such as composting and recycling, to minimize the amount of food waste generated. They can also create partnerships with local organizations and waste management companies to facilitate the proper disposal of waste, including food waste, in ports of call.


Overall, by investing in better waste management facilities and practices, cruise ships can reduce food waste and promote sustainability in their operations.



Limited waste reduction and recycling programs.


Inadequate training of kitchen staff on food waste reduction can cause potential issues. Kitchen staff play a crucial role in reducing food waste, but without proper training, they may not have the necessary knowledge and skills to minimize waste.


Training kitchen staff on food waste reduction techniques, such as portion control, inventory management, and the use of surplus food, is essential in reducing food waste. However, many cruise ships lack the resources to provide comprehensive training for their kitchen staff, leading to inefficiencies and waste.


To address the issue of inadequate training, cruise ships can invest in providing their kitchen staff with regular training and development programs. This can include training on food waste reduction techniques, proper storage and handling of food, and the use of technology to track and manage waste.


In addition, cruise ships can establish a culture of sustainability and waste reduction by promoting awareness and education on food waste issues among kitchen staff, as well as passengers. This can encourage kitchen staff to adopt best practices and reduce food waste in their daily operations.


Overall, by supplying adequate training and development opportunities for kitchen staff, cruise ships can reduce food waste and promote sustainability in their operations.


A cruise ship sailing off into the sunset on a long voyage.

Challenges in maintaining freshness and quality of food during extended voyages.


Limited access to fresh produce and local ingredients is a significant issue in the cruise ship industry, leading to food waste. Cruise ships operate in a variety of locations, often far from sources of fresh produce, making it challenging to incorporate local ingredients into their menu offerings.


In many cases, cruise ships rely on imported ingredients, which can be less fresh and have a shorter shelf life compared to locally sourced produce. This can result in a higher rate of spoilage and waste, especially for perishable items like fruits and vegetables.


To address the issue of limited access to fresh produce and local ingredients, cruise ships can invest in sourcing locally grown and produced ingredients whenever possible. This can include setting up partnerships with local farmers, fishermen, and food producers to secure a steady supply of fresh ingredients.


Cruise ships can also adopt sustainable sourcing practices, such as purchasing ingredients that are in season and grown locally, to reduce the environmental impact of food waste. In addition, they can incorporate local ingredients into their menu offerings to promote cultural diversity and provide passengers with unique dining experiences.


Overall, by incorporating fresh produce and local ingredients into their menu offerings, cruise ships can reduce food waste and promote sustainability in their operations.



A stack of pancaakes

Varying Portion sizes


In most cases, generous portion sizes result in a significant amount of food waste, as passengers are unable to finish their meals or may request multiple servings. This can be compounded by the dynamic nature of cruise ship operations, which can make it challenging to accurately forecast demand for food and adjust portion sizes accordingly.


To address the issue of lack of standardization in portion sizes, cruise ships can adopt portion control techniques, such as using standardized serving utensils and portion control plates. This can help to minimize waste by reducing the amount of food served and ensuring that portion sizes are consistent and accurate.


In addition, cruise ships can incorporate customer feedback and real-time monitoring of food consumption to adjust portion sizes and reduce waste. They can also offer smaller portion sizes as an option for passengers who are unable to finish large portions.


Overall, by standardizing portion sizes and incorporating customer feedback, cruise ships can reduce food waste and promote sustainability in their operations.



Incentive structures that prioritize cost savings over sustainability.


Food waste generated on cruise ships is often disposed of as regular waste, contributing to environmental pollution and the release of greenhouse gases. In addition, cruise ships may also face legal and environmental compliance issues if they are unable to responsibly manage their waste.


To address the issue of a lack of food waste management infrastructure, cruise ships can invest in waste management solutions, such as composting and waste-to-energy systems. Biomaterial digesters can aid by converting food waste into water, which can then be used for the irrigation of plants on board or fed directly into the grey water tanks on the vessel for the flushing of toilets.


This can help to reduce the environmental impact of food waste and promote sustainability in their operations.


In addition, cruise ships can adopt best practices for food waste management, such as reducing food waste through portion control and surplus food management and storing and disposing of waste.


Overall, by investing in food waste management infrastructure and adopting best practices, cruise ships can reduce food waste and promote sustainability in their operations.


A pile of $100 bills and some gold coins


Summary


Maritime food waste is a significant issue in the cruise ship industry, with a variety of factors contributing to the problem. Some of the top ten issues include overproduction of food, inefficient menu planning, limited access to fresh produce and local ingredients, lack of standardization in food portion sizes, lack of proper storage facilities, inadequate training of kitchen staff, lack of customer education on waste reduction, insufficient surplus food management programs, lack of food waste management infrastructure, and inadequate recycling and composting facilities. To address these issues, cruise ships can adopt sustainable food sourcing practices, standardize portion sizes, invest in proper storage and waste management facilities, educate kitchen staff and customers, and implement surplus food management programs. By taking a comprehensive approach to food waste reduction, the cruise ship industry can promote sustainability and minimize the environmental impact of maritime food waste.



Bio materials digester machines for food waste composting

Solution


Biomaterial Digesters work by taking in the waste product and continuously working with paddles to break down organic matter and consortia of enzymes that over 24 hours reduce the organic waste into a nutrient-rich liquid, this grey water can be either put straight into the grey water tanks on board for flushing toilets or better still be used as a foliar spray to keep the plants on board full of health and vitality. There can be multiple units placed on board a vessel so that they are easily accessible from all the restaurants, cafes, bars, and buffets on board.


This means that there is no further need to throw food waste overboard, and the by-products can be either kept on board or sold off to local farmers at ports of call, allowing them to have an organic fertilizer and the cruise lines to add another revenue stream to something they already were discharging at sea.



Disclaimer:

The majority of this article has been written by an AI software program developed by Open AI, as such there are no specific sources for this information. The information contained in the majority of the text is based on the general understanding of the cruise ship industry and food waste, and the points made are meant to be a summary of common issues and potential solutions. For the rest of the article

Sources


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