The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) has pledged to turn the tide on plastics with new guidelines set to reduce single-use plastic use among visitors to the white continent.
The measures were introduced at IAATO’s annual meeting in Cape Town, South Africa on May 3 as part of IAATO’s commitment to the UN Environment Clean Seas campaign to reduce plastic use and waste across their operations.
The new guidelines, announced on World Environment Day, June 5, encourage visitors to prepare for their journey by avoiding the use of disposable items, such as wet wipes, bottles and razors, cosmetics containing micro-beads, and to continue environmental efforts on their return home.
The new guidelines will be available to visitors this summer, ahead of the Antarctic travel season, which begins in October. IAATO member operators were encouraged to distribute the guidelines, presented at the meeting, to guests as part of their pre-departure packs.
Amanda Lynnes, IAATO Head of Environment and Communications, said: “IAATO members have been striving to reduce plastic consumption across their operations, from eliminating plastic straws to adding special filters to onboard washing facilities to stop microplastics from ending up in waste water. These guidelines are a way of inviting guests to join our efforts, and include plenty of information on ways they can take those positive actions home with them.
“Visitors to Antarctica can’t fail to be inspired by its pristine landscape and often ask our member operators what they can do to support our environmental efforts. We are thrilled to be able to create something that supports the involvement of our guests in plastic-reduction both during their expedition and at home and to share this exciting news on World Environment Day, the United Nations day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment
“While the individual steps within the new guidelines may seem small, they have the potential to create a big impact on our environment.”
Every year, members set aside competitive interests to have open and candid discussions on safety, environmental protection and self-regulation. Decision-making is supported by recommendations developed by IAATO's many dedicated committees and working groups throughout the year. The meetings conclude annually with the voting in of new policies on best practice which support our mission of promoting and advocating safe and environmentally responsible travel to Antarctica
The new guidelines are part of IAATO’s joint UN Environment Clean Seas Project with northern counterpart the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators, aimed at significantly reducing single-use plastic during Antarctic and Arctic operations as well as enhancing guest in involvement in plastic reduction both during their expeditions and at home.
UN Environment launched Clean Seas in February 2017, with the aim of engaging governments, the general public and the private sector in the fight against marine plastic pollution.
Amanda added: “Traveling to Antarctica is a privilege and we hope that by taking guests there they return as ambassadors for its ongoing preservation and protection.”