BIMCO Joins Efforts to Eliminate Single-Use Plastics on Ships

eliminating single-use plastics
BIMCO estimates that 1.75 billion plastic bottles are used aboard ships each year

Published Nov 25, 2022 5:43 PM by The Maritime Executive

Reducing the overall use of single-use plastic and removing items like plastic bottles and drinking straws from ships is one of the many efforts designed to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the oceans. The cruise industry adopted the efforts several years ago to stop the use of single-use plastics on many cruise ships and now the commercial industry trade association BIMCO is also getting involved by launching a campaign to raise awareness and help support the removal of single-use plastic bottles from ships.

BIMCO reports it is being motivated both by the volume of bottles used on ships as well as the amount of plastic that is ended up in the world’s oceans. They highlight that even if plastics on board ships are sorted, managed, and discharged to shore in a proper way, mismanagement of waste on land means it can still reach the ocean. BIMCO estimates that up to 1.75 billion plastic bottles a year are being used on board ships.

As a first step, BIMCO reports it has partnered with a company called Ocean Bottle on co-branded reusable bottles which symbolizes the change needed within the shipping industry. BIMCO believes removing unnecessary plastics is the industry’s best option to help remove a source that may end up reaching the ocean.

"We've learnt from members who have successfully implemented initiatives to remove single-use plastics bottles from their ships that providing crew with a reusable bottle, alongside other actions, can make a big difference,” said Dr. Bev Mackenzie, Head of Intergovernmental Engagement at BIMCO. “Over half of the companies that recently completed a BIMCO survey are already providing such bottles.”

As part of the effort, they are calling on the shipping industry to adopt sustainable alternatives such as onboard water supplies or larger water dispensers. Providing the capability to refill a bottle from a modern system they point out also supports crew welfare by providing good quality, safe drinking water.

BIMCO estimates that an onboard system is a quarter of the cost of providing water in single-use plastic bottles and can pay for itself in just one year. In addition, BIMCO reports that evidence suggests that refills can save around 2,355 kg of CO2 emissions per ship per year. 

“Whilst solutions exist, we still have work to do and will be working with our members to support them in selecting onboard systems and bottles to best suit their needs. What we do know is that our industry’s small steps in phasing out single-use plastic bottles could have a big impact,” said Mackenzie. 

The BIMCO/Ocean Bottle branded bottles will be distributed among key stakeholders, leaders, and volunteers in the coming months as part of an effort to build awareness for the campaign to help address single-use plastics on board. 

Every bottle bought from Ocean Bottle also helps to fund the collection of 11.4 kg (over 1,000 single-use plastic bottles in weight) from the world's most polluted waterways. Plastic is collected by locals from some of the worst affected coastal communities such as the Philippines, Brazil, Egypt, Ghana, India, and Indonesia, and under the program, they exchange the plastic for money or receive digital credit to swap for tuition, tech goods, healthcare, and micro-finance. This infrastructure is made possible with help from partners Plastic Bank, Plastics for Change, and rePurpose who set up collection sites and ensure transactions to collectors are secure through traceable technology.