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Carnival Corporation has announced that it is pilot-testing food waste bio-digester technology to improve environmental compliance and the food waste disposal process onboard its ships, and plans to expand the program across its fleet in the near future.

According to Carnival, the technology provides a number of benefits, including: separating the small pieces of plastics and other debris that can occasionally find its way into food waste for sustained environmental compliance; providing more efficient and centralized onsite food waste operations; and enhancing onboard public health as well as reducing a ship’s carbon footprint by automated and natural processing of food waste.

The technology is described as working with bio-digesters to reduce a ship’s carbon footprint by using an aerobic digestion process that takes place within the machines and breaks down food particles, releasing a translucent, environmentally safe liquid. This limits the amount of greenhouse gas emitted from conventional food waste processing systems, helping reduce the company’s environmental impact.

Currently being evaluated on 15 ships with 12 more ships scheduled in coming months across seven of the corporation’s nine cruise line brands, Carnival said that food waste bio-digesters are used for successful food waste management at some restaurants, hotels, government facilities, stadiums, theme parks and other locations. The bio-digester systems in Carnival’s pilot test are among the first systems of this kind to be tested on a cruise ship.

Throughout the day, as food scraps are added to the system, a mix of microorganisms, including microbes and enzymes, rapidly and naturally digest the organic waste. The machines operate 24-hours a day, allowing for continuous food “digestion.”

“Think of a food waste bio-digester as a large, stainless steel stomach that digests food waste – if you can feed it to people, you can feed it into a digester,” said Chris Donald, senior vice president of corporate environmental compliance at Carnival Corporation. “Since we serve meals to millions of guests each year, this new green technology can help us significantly reduce our environmental impact and carbon footprint, while also greatly improving our ability to manage non-food waste, including plastics. We have already seen positive results and significant benefits from these systems, which are technologically advanced yet simple to use. We are evaluating different digesters and are currently planning to expand the use of these systems across our fleet as part of our commitment to environmental excellence.”

Carnival Corporation is testing three different bio-digester machines, including systems that can evaluate a variety of parameters and produce valuable data, including the weight and volume of food waste digested, the net food waste reduced and the amount of CO2 reduced, among others. Equally important, according to Carnival, is that all of these parameters can be automatically uploaded to a cloud server and remotely monitored around the clock by shipboard and shore-side employees.

Food waste bio-digesters are placed in strategic areas such as a ship’s galley, allowing for more convenient and efficient food waste processing at the source. Bio-digesters in the pilot feature a screen filter at the bottom of each machine that captures any small plastics and other non-organic debris accidentally mixed with food waste, a feature that improves environmental compliance. The green technology also supports and enhances operations onboard, making it more efficient for crew members to manage and control food waste.

Carnival stated that in 2017 it achieved its 25% carbon reduction goal three years ahead of schedule, and is on track with its nine other 2020 sustainability targets for reducing its environmental footprint while enhancing the health, safety and security of its guests and crew members, and ensuring sustainable business practices among its nine brands, business partners and suppliers.

Added Carnival’s Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer Peter Anderson: “These investments in innovative green technology are part of a broader corporate strategy which includes an enhanced commitment to further improve the corporation’s environmental performance and overall commitment to compliance.”