Cruise Line Waste-Offload Initiatives in Juneau Start Paying Off

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In 2022, the city of Juneau, CLIA, and cruise lines formed agreements to offload less waste from cruise ships visiting the popular Alaskan cruise destination. The aim had been to lower the amount of waste offloaded from cruise ships by 90%.

The local waste management company has now announced that the amount of waste offloaded last year was over 92% lower than in 2019.

Along with waste reduction initiatives, stakeholders also agreed on a cruise ship limit that will reduce the maximum number of visiting ships per day to five, which will go into force in April of this year.

Bringing Less Waste to Alaska

Cruise ships create a vast amount of waste each day, so much so that in 2019, the cruise ships sailing to Juneau, Alaska, offloaded an incredible 3.3 million pounds of waste to the local landfill. Over the years, the complaints from the local community grew, especially given the landfill’s estimated remaining lifespan of only 20 years.

The disposal of bulky items like mattresses and heavy furniture by cruise ships contributed to an unsustainable scenario.

Alexandra Pierce, Tourism Manager for Juneau, said to KTOO: “We’ve been hearing for years that cruise ships have been dumping things like mattresses and furniture in our landfill — and that’s really problematic. We don’t want to see that in an islanded community, from a waste perspective like we have.”

In 2022, the cruise lines, with industry trade association Cruise Lines International Association, and the city of Juneau closed a series of agreements to limit the amount of waste being offloaded by 90%.

Juneau, Alaska
Juneau, Alaska

While Juneau experienced a record-breaking cruise year in 2023, welcoming 30% more cruise passengers than in the busiest year-to-date of 2019, recording 1.64 million visitors, the amount of waste went down significantly. From 3.3 million pounds in 2019, the cruise ships visiting Juneau in 2023 offloaded just 250,000 pounds, a decline of 92.5%.

Also Read: Carnival Reusing Cruise Ship Cooking Oil in Alaska

Pierce: “It’s over a 90% reduction, which is what we were going for with the agreements. What we’re doing is exciting, and it takes a lot of collaboration and coordination, but we’re making real change in our community.”

While the reduction in waste disposal in Juneau is a great result, the end result of the 2022 agreements is still unclear, with other initiatives being implemented this year. 

Cruise Lines and Juneau Working Together to Minimize Impact

Following the 2022 agreement between the City of Juneau and the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), besides the significant reduction in waste offload achieved in 2023, several other initiatives have taken effect or are about to be implemented to minimize the impact of cruise ships on the local environment and community.

The limitation on the number of cruise ships allowed to dock in Juneau to five per day will be enforced at the start of the Alaska cruise season in April 2024. This limitation aims to mitigate congestion and environmental pressure on Juneau and the surrounding areas.

Juneau Cruise Pier

Additionally, the requirement for cruise ships to turn off large outdoor screens while in port or when visible from city neighborhoods has been put into practice. Restrictions on vessels taking on fresh drinking water during drought conditions have also been implemented. Shore power usage is also becoming more common amongst visiting cruise ships.

Economic support initiatives have seen progress, with cruise lines pledging up to $10 million from cruise ship passenger taxes towards the expansion of the Centennial Hall convention center. 

Altogether, the initiatives from the cruise industry and the city of Juneau show how the popularity of cruises to Alaska can be managed in a way that still brings in millions of visitors, without compromising the environment or the quality of life for residents.

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