Royal Caribbean’s Newest Ships to Turn Waste Into Energy

The upcoming Icon of the Seas and Silver Nova will be the first to use waste-to-energy technology onboard.

Royal Caribbean Group’s two newest ships will introduce green tech to convert solid waste into power that can be used aboard the ships. The cruise lines – Royal Caribbean International and Silversea Cruises – will be the first in the industry to deploy this type of waste-to-power technology.

Green Tech Cruise Ship Waste Management Innovations

Solid waste transformed and repurposed into energy is the name of the game for Royal Caribbean Group’s two newest ships, Icon of the Seas and Silver Nova

Royal Caribbean Group plans to use Microwave-Assisted Pyrolysis (MAP) and Micro Auto Gasification (MAG) for the conversion of solid waste – such as food scraps, cardboard, and used paper – into energy aboard two of the newest vessels in its vast, multi-cruise-line fleet.

The ships that will benefit first from this technology are the 20-deck Icon of the Seas, set to become the planet’s largest cruise ship (coming in at around 250,800 tons), with a capacity for 5,610 passengers and 2,350 crew, plus the 54,700-ton Silver Nova, built in Papenburg, Germany, and floated out on April 28, 2023.

Icon of the Seas is being built in Turku, Finland, and is slated for her maiden voyage on January 27, 2024, sailing out of Miami.

“I am proud of Royal Caribbean Group’s drive to SEA the Future and be better tomorrow than we are today,” said Jason Liberty, Royal Caribbean Group CEO. “Pioneering the first waste-to-energy system on a cruise ship builds on our commitment to remove waste from local landfills and deliver great vacation experiences, responsibly.”

The Microwave-Assisted Pyrolysis and Micro Auto Gasification systems convert waste into energy for ship use, though no details are yet available about how much energy can be produced or exactly how it will be used onboard.

Waste-to-Energy Diagram
Waste-to-Energy Diagram (Image Credit: Royal Caribbean Group)

These systems also have the added boon of creating a bioproduct called biochar, which can then be repurposed as a nutrient for the soil, perhaps even for maintaining organic plants in the ships’ onboard parks or public areas.

Improved Food Waste Management

Royal Caribbean Group also has several plans to decrease food waste by 50% across its fleet by 2025, including developing a patented platform to monitor food supply which will use artificial intelligence (AI) to regulate food production in real time. The platform will also track guests’ demand for specific menu items, and introduce a food waste awareness campaign. 

The company has already made a 24% reduction in food waste by concentrating on the front end of the fleet’s food systems. Royal Caribbean’s 228,081-ton Symphony of the Seas is a zero-landfill ship, meaning everything is recycled, processed through water-purification systems, incinerated, or sent to a waste-to-energy facility.

Royal Caribbean The Key
Photo Credit: EQRoy / Shutterstock

Adapting menus to suit guests’ preferences, adjusting hours that different food venues are available, and monitoring portion sizes may all also be strategies to help reduce food waste.

Royal Caribbean Group’s Green Hubs

Royal Caribbean Group’s Green Hubs, which kicked off in 2014, are also continuing to expand. The “Green Hub” concept was developed to make the company more environmentally accountable.

At its core, Green Hubs identifies waste vendors in strategic locations around the planet. So far, the initiative has diverted 92% of waste from landfills, with the program now operating in 33 different ports.

The Galapagos Islands have now been added to the Green Hubs list. This initiative helps the Royal Caribbean Group better protect the Galapagos’ flora, fauna, and marine environment, and also gives a boost to the Silversea Fund for the Galapagos. The fund, started in 2019 and paid for by passenger donations, focuses on education and conservation projects in the islands. 

Silver Nova
Silver Nova (Photo Credit: MartinLueke / Shutterstock)

Growing Green Initiatives in the Cruise Industry

While Royal Caribbean Group is the only cruise line so far to announce plans to implement this new type of green waste technology (converting waste into energy), other cruise lines are also investing in various green initiatives.

For example, multiple lines are retrofitting older ships with solar panels and exhaust scrubber systems, along with implementing advances in hull design on newer vessels to minimize emissions, letting the ships slice through the water more efficiently and with less noise that will disturb marine environments.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ has its Global Sustainability Program, which focuses on reducing single-use plastics and expanding shore power capabilities, while Costa Cruises is heavily involved with the Sustainable Cruise project to reduce and recycle solid waste and residual matter onboard cruise ships.

Costa Cruises is also just one cruise line investing in cleaner liquefied natural gas (LNG) on its newer vessels, like Costa Smeralda and Costa Toscana.

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