Waste Management

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) oceangoing members (CLIA Members) recognize that proper waste management is fundamental to the protection of the environment. Toward this end, CLIA members are to manage their wastes in accordance with sound environmental principles and in compliance with all regulatory requirements, and continually strive to minimize their waste and seek improved waste management practices.

Through the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and flag and port States, CLIA Members are subject to comprehensive, consistent and uniform international standards, as well as the national, state and/or local regulations that apply to all vessels. The standards of MARPOL (the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships) have in turn been adopted by most flag and port States and subsequently enacted into national legislation and regulation. Additional national and local legislation have been adopted by many port States. The cruise industry demonstrates its commitment to protecting the environment through the use of a broad spectrum of waste management technologies and procedures employed on its vessels.

CLIA Members have demonstrated their commitment to the environment by:

  • Developing and maintaining an environmental policy which is the basis of an environmental management system;
  • Establishing   a   dedicated,   responsible   person   to   oversee   the environmental program;
  • Clearly defining operational  objectives,  requiring compliance with applicable laws and regulations, and encouraging continuous improvement of performance;
  • Designing,  constructing,  and  operating vessels,  so  as  to  minimize their impact on the environment;
  • Implementing  comprehensive  waste  minimization  processes  and procedures,  and  advancing  technologies  to  minimize  waste  and exceed current requirements for protection of the environment, where possible;
  • Expanding  waste  reduction  strategies  to  include  beneficial  reuse, recycling, and waste to energy processes, to the maximum extent possible;
  • Conserving  resources  through  purchasing  strategies  and  product management;
  • Optimizing  energy  efficiency  through   conservation   and   energy management;
  • Reviewing and improving processes and procedures for collection and transfer of hazardous waste;
  • Strengthening programs for the monitoring and auditing of shipboard environmental practices and procedures, in accordance with the International Safety Management (ISM) Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention;
  • Engaging   and   evaluating   partners   who   provide   efficient   and sustainable strategies for waste and recyclables landed ashore;
  • Minimizing and properly managing wastewater discharges beyond compliance with applicable requirements whenever possible; and
  • Increasing environmental awareness by educating crew, guests, and the communities in which they operate regarding cruise ship environmental programs.




The cruise industry is inextricably linked to the environment. Our business is to bring people to interesting places in the world, by travelling via water. The future of the industry depends on a clean and healthy environment.   Cruise industry senior management has demonstrated its commitment to stewardship of the environment by establishing industry practices that will make CLIA’s oceangoing members (CLIA Members) leaders in environmental performance.

The purpose of this document is to describe waste management practices and procedures that CLIA Members agree shall be incorporated into their respective Safety Management Systems (SMS).  The development of industry practices and procedures is based upon the fundamental principles outlined in CLIA’s Waste Management policy.

To  the  extent  there  are  any  waste  management  practices  and  procedures  not described herein, CLIA Members have agreed to use best waste management practices and to comply with all local, state, national, and flag State operational waste management laws and requirements.


Cruise vessels, as do all industrial, commercial, and residential entities, generate waste as a result of normal daily activities/operations. Due to the itinerant nature of cruises, the management of these wastes is more complicated than for land-based establishments.  As  ships  move  from  port  to  port,  the  available  facilities  and regulatory requirements they encounter are different.

On an international level, environmental concerns are an important part of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) policies and procedures for the maritime industry. CLIA Members have agreed on the need to incorporate international, national and local environmental performance standards into their individual SMS. As specified under agreements and laws in many nations, compliance with these requirements is routinely reviewed by port States.

The industry has developed best management practices for the traditional wastes (e.g. garbage, graywater, sewage, oily residues, sludge oil, and bilge water), as well as the small quantities of hazardous waste produced onboard. CLIA Members share waste management strategies and technologies amongst themselves while focusing on the common goals of waste reduction and pollution prevention.

The  commitment  of  the  industry  to  this  cooperative  effort  is  successful,  as companies continue to share best practices, information, and strategies which continue to improve.

Waste Management Practices

CLIA Members take great measures to manage garbage and continuously strive to implement new and more effective waste minimization processes and procedures. These operators further continuously strive to implement and invest in new and comprehensive  waste  minimization  processes  and  procedures,  relevant environmental training, and sustainable wastewater operations.


CLIA member have agreed to develop programs that raise the level of environmental awareness of both crew and passengers. Each ship’s crew are to receive initial and recurring training regarding shipboard environmental procedures. Advanced training in specific shipboard environmental management issues is to be provided for those directly involved in these areas. Those directly responsible for processing wastes are to be given specific instructions as to their duties and responsibilities, the operation of the relevant equipment and waste management systems. Specific steps CLIA Members have agreed to take to train crew members and increase passenger awareness may include the following:

  • Comprehensive training programs for new crew with recurring and updated training on a periodic basis;
  • Announcements over the public address system, notices in ship newsletters, appropriate signage (required and voluntary) and informational posters in crew and passenger areas encouraging environmental awareness and protection;
  • Environmental information booklets in crew cabins and crew lounges;
  • Corporate and shipboard produced informational videos shown on cabin TV
  • Presentations  for  passengers  on  company  environmental  programs  and regulatory requirements; and
  • Periodic environmental committee meetings, consisting of officers and crew from all departments to review methods of improving performance, including enhanced and more effective environmental practices.

Waste Collection, Separation, and Processing

CLIA Members have agreed to establish comprehensive procedures in their specific waste management plans that drive the safe and hygienic collection, minimization separation, and processing of wastes onboard and offloads to approved shoreside waste vendors.

Waste can be classified in several ways, but the following definitions represent typical classifications used by CLIA Members, some of which come from the pertinent MARPOL Annex V definitions:

Biomedical waste means waste whose collection and disposal is subject to special requirements in order to prevent infection.

Cooking oil means any type of edible oil or animal fat used or intended to be used for the preparation or cooking of food, but does not include the food itself that is prepared using these oils.

Domestic wastes means all types of wastes that are generated in the accommodation spaces on board the ship, but does not include graywater.

Electronic waste (E-waste) means used electrical appliances, TVs, computers, monitors, etc.

Food wastes means any spoiled or unspoiled food substances, including fruits, vegetables, dairy products, poultry, meat products and food scraps generated aboard the ship.

Garbage means all kinds of food wastes, domestic wastes and operational wastes, all plastics, and cooking oil generated during the normal operation of the ship and likely to be disposed of continuously or periodically.

Harmful Substance means any substance which, if introduced into the environment, is likely to create hazards to human health, harm living resources and/or marine life. This may include the term “hazardous waste” used in some jurisdictions.

Incinerator ashes means ash and clinkers resulting from shipboard incinerators used for the incineration of garbage.

Operational wastes means all solid wastes that are collected on board during normal maintenance or operations of a ship.   Operational wastes includes cleaning agents and additives contained in external wash water, but does not include graywater, bilge water or other similar discharges essential to the operation of a ship.

Plastic means a solid material, which contains, as an essential ingredient, one or more high molecular mass polymers, and which is formed (shaped) during either the manufacture of the polymer or the fabrication into a finished product by heat and/or pressure. Plastics have material properties ranging from hard and brittle to soft and elastic.

Recyclable materials means paper, glass, bottles, cans, metals, certain plastics, clothes, and batteries capable of some beneficial re-use.

CLIA Members agree to manage their waste streams according to the following details and specific practices.

Cooking Oil:

Waste cooking oil is typically strained to remove debris and then collected and landed ashore for recycling in the bio-diesel market where feasible. Otherwise, it may be collected in onboard storage tanks and landed ashore with engine oily residues.    It  may  be  directly  incinerated  or  burned  as  fuel  to  make  steam  or electricity on board.

Domestic Wastes:

CLIA Members agree to the installation of any method (compactors, shredders, incinerators, etc.) to reduce the volume of the waste, which in turn reduces the storage space required and results in more efficient offloading and recycling programs.

Paper, cardboard, and other combustibles are to be recycled when local recycling facilities are available shoreside, but some volume may be incinerated aboard to avoid large accumulation of these combustible materials, as that would present an increased fire hazard.

Glass  bottles,  jars  and  other  glassware  are  to  be  crushed  for  recycling.    Some member lines and larger vessels separate glass by color to further increase the recycling potential of the waste stream.

Aluminum, (soda cans and deck chairs), galley tins, and other metals (copper, brass, bronze, Cu-Ni and scrap steel) are to be separated by type and landed ashore for recycling, where local recycling facilities exist.

Incinerator Ash:

Incinerator  ash  is  to  be  landed  ashore  in  accordance  with  applicable  local  and national requirements.  CLIA Members agree to test incinerator ash at least annually for any hazardous components. Each CLIA Member is to also use a testing standard that is accepted worldwide.

Operational Wastes:

Many operational wastes may be hazardous or may otherwise require special handling.  CLIA Members have agreed to ensure that all waste of this nature is appropriately categorized and landed in accordance with the local requirements and only where an acceptable handling/disposal practice is in place.

CLIA Members have agreed on the need to identify and segregate hazardous wastes aboard cruise vessels for individual handling and management, in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. CLIA Members have further agreed that hazardous wastes are not to be commingled or mixed with other waste streams. The following specific measures have been identified as best industry practices:

Photo Processing, including X-ray development fluid waste:

CLIA Members agree to prevent the discharge of silver into the marine environment through the use of the best available technology to reduce the silver content of the waste stream to levels specified by prevailing regulations.   Photo chemical waste shall not be discharged overboard or commingled with any other waste water. Otherwise, they are to treat all photo processing and x-ray development fluid waste (treated or untreated) as a hazardous waste and land ashore in accordance with local legislation.

Many CLIA Members have installed digital X-ray and photo processing alternatives to further reduce the generated waste.

Dry-cleaning waste fluids and contaminated materials:

Shipboard dry cleaning facilities typically use a chlorinated solvent and produce a small amount of waste. This waste is comprised of dirt, oils, filters material, and spent solvent. This material is classified as hazardous or special waste and is only to be disposed of ashore as required by law or regulation.  Some CLIA Members have replaced solvent based dry cleaning equipment with similar systems using non-toxic solvents.  Others have installed “wet cleaning” processes which do not utilize any solvents and therefore do not produce hazardous waste.

Electronic waste (E-waste):

Rapid changes in technology mean that more and more electronic items are replaced and discarded continually.  Electronic waste, also known as E-waste, is known to contain  low  levels  of  toxic  heavy  metals  such  as  arsenic,  barium,  cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, silver and selenium. To dispose of these products in a sound manner, CLIA Members agree to collect and recycle used electronic equipment generated aboard with reputable vendors known to properly handle this waste.   E- waste accepted for recycling includes the following:

  • Computer monitors and televisions
  • Personal computers, keyboards, hard drives, printers and printer cartridges
  • VCRs, audio and video equipment
  • Communication equipment such as cellular telephones and hand-held radios
  • Smoke detectors (non-ionizing)

Print shop waste fluids:

Print shop waste may contain hazardous waste. Printing solvents, inks and cleaners may contain hydrocarbons, chlorinated hydrocarbons, and/or heavy metals that can be harmful. Recent advances in printing technology and the substitution of chemicals that are less hazardous reduce the volume of print shop waste generated and the impact of these waste products.

CLIA Members are to utilize, whenever possible, printing methods and printing process chemicals that produce less hazardous waste volume.   Shipboard print operators are to be trained to minimize printing waste.   Alternative printing inks, such as soy based, non-chlorinated or hydrocarbon-based ink products, are to be used whenever possible.

CLIA Members have further agreed that all print shop waste, including waste solvents, cleaners, and cleaning cloths, is to be treated as hazardous waste, if such waste  contains  chemical  components  that  may  be  considered  hazardous  by regulatory definitions and that all other waste may be treated as non-hazardous.

Photo copying and laser printer cartridges:

The increased use of laser and photo copying equipment onboard results in the generation of a number of used toner and ink cartridges. Only such ink, toner and printing/copying cartridges that contain non-hazardous chemical components are to be used. In recognition of CLIA Members’ goal of waste minimization, cartridges should, whenever possible, be returned to the supplier or an alternative facility for recycling and reuse.

Unused and outdated pharmaceuticals:

In general, ships carry varying amounts of pharmaceuticals in their medical centers. The pharmaceuticals that are carried range from over-the-counter products such as anti-fungal creams to prescription drugs such as epinephrine. Each ship stocks an inventory based on its itinerary and the demographics of its passenger base. All pharmaceuticals are managed to ensure that their efficacy is optimized and that disposal is done in an environmentally responsible manner.

When disposing of pharmaceuticals, the method used is to be consistent with established and applicable regulations.  Furthermore, most regulatory jurisdictions have a posting of listed pharmaceuticals that must be considered hazardous waste once the date has expired or the item is no longer acceptable for patient use.

Stocks of such listed pharmaceuticals should, when possible, be returned to the vendor prior to the date of expiration. Pharmaceuticals that are being returned and have not reached their expiration date are shipped using ordinary practices for new products.

CLIA Members have agreed that all expired listed pharmaceuticals are to be handled in accordance with established guidance.  For example, in the US, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a report that clarifies the fact that residuals, such as epinephrine, found in syringes after injections are not considered an acutely hazardous waste, by definition, and may be disposed of appropriately in sharps containers.  Additionally, all CLIA Members have agreed to adhere to all Universal Precautions when handling sharps.

CLIA  Members  are  to  employ  one  or  more  of  the  following  practices  when disposing of pharmaceuticals:

  • establish a reverse distribution system  for returning unexpired, unopened non-narcotic pharmaceuticals to the original vendor;
  • appropriately destroy narcotic pharmaceuticals onboard the ship, in a manner that is witnessed and recorded;
  • offload listed pharmaceuticals in accordance with local regulations. Listed pharmaceuticals are hazardous wastes with chemical compositions that prevent them from being incinerated or disposed of through the ship’s wastewater treatment plant; and/or
  • dispose  of  other  non-narcotic  and  non-listed  pharmaceuticals  through onboard incineration or landing ashore.

Fluorescent and mercury vapor lamp bulbs:

CLIA Members agree to prevent the release of mercury into the environment from spent fluorescent and mercury vapor lamps by assuring proper recycling or by using other acceptable means of disposal.

Fluorescent and mercury vapor lamps contain small amounts of mercury that could potentially be harmful to human health and the environment. To prevent human exposure and contamination of the environment, these lamps are to be handled in an environmentally safe manner. Recycling of mercury from lamps and other mercury containing devices is the preferred handling method and is encouraged by various authorities. The recycling of fluorescent lamps and high intensity discharge (HID) lamps keeps potentially hazardous materials out of landfills, saves landfill space, and reduces raw materials production needs.

Disposal of the glass tubes can be accomplished by (1) processing with shipboard lamp crusher units that filter and absorb the mercury vapor through H.E.P.A. and activated carbon, or (2) by keeping the glass tubes intact for recycling ashore. The intact lamps or crushed bulbs are classified when they are shipped to a properly permitted recycling facility; as such, testing is not required. The filters are to be disposed of as hazardous waste, in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.

Other mercury containing products:

Where  feasible,  CLIA  Members  are  to  reduce  the  use  of  mercury-containing products. Any product that contains mercury is to be landed ashore as hazardous or special waste, as appropriate.


If not properly disposed of, spent batteries may constitute a hazardous waste stream. Most of the large batteries are used in Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) systems, in lifeboats and tenders and standby generators. Small batteries used in flashlights, microphones and other equipment and by passengers’ personal use, account for the rest.

CLIA Members agree to recycle batteries whenever possible.

Spent batteries are to be collected and returned for recycling and/or disposal in accordance with prevailing regulations. Discarded batteries are to be isolated from the other waste streams to prevent potentially toxic materials from inappropriate disposal. The wet-cell battery-recycling program is to be kept separate from the dry- battery collection process. Intact wet-cell batteries are to be returned to the supplier, when  possible.  Dry-cell  batteries  are  to  be  manifested  to  a  licensed  firm  for recycling.

Bilge and Oily Water Residues:

CLIA Members agree to meet or exceed the international requirements for removing oil from bilge and wastewater prior to discharge.

The lowest point in the engine room machinery spaces of a cruise ship is known as the bilge.   Water and oil drip from various sources such as shaft seals, propulsion system cooling elements, evaporators, and other machinery. It is periodically pumped into holding tanks and treated to bring the oil in water concentration down to 15 parts per million (ppm) or less.  

International conventions (i.e. MARPOL) allow discharge of this treated bilge water so long as the oil remaining in the water does not exceed 15 ppm and that it does not leave a visible sheen on the surface of the water when the ship is proceeding en route (underway to allow for dispersion).  The oil removed from the water is held onboard for reuse or disposal ashore.

In accordance with the MARPOL Convention and associated regulations, every ship of 400 gross tonnage and above shall be provided with and maintain an Oil Record Book,  that  records  the  transfer  of  all  oil  and  oily  liquids,  including  fuel  oil, lubricating oil, waste oil, oily sludge, and oily bilge water.


CLIA Members are constantly researching ways in which plastic can be reduced through sourcing and product selection. Plastic is a product that exists in every aspect of our lives, both ashore and aboard. CLIA Members are committed to reducing plastics disposed of in landfills and increasing recycling volumes. Plastics are separated and recycled whenever possible.

Wastewater Reclamation:

Management of water use on a cruise ship is extremely important.  This management includes minimizing water usage and reclamation and reuse of water for non-potable purposes.  CLIA Members are to use various techniques to minimize onboard water use, including:

  • use of technical water (for example, air conditioning condensate) in systems that do not require potable water (flushing toilets, laundry, open deck washing), where possible;
  • use of water recovery systems (for example, filtering and reuse of laundry
    water “last rinse” used for first wash);
  • active water conservation (for example, use of reduced flow showerheads, vacuum systems for toilets, vacuum food waste transportation, and laundry equipment that utilizes less water); and
  • training of the crew to continually remind them to close faucets and valves when not in use and use only necessary quantities of water for cleaning purposes.


The term graywater is used on ships to refer to wastewater that is incidental to the operation  of  the  ship.  This  typically  includes  drainage  from  galleys  (food preparation, dishwashing and cleaning), accommodation showers and sinks, and laundry.

CLIA Members agree that for ships not using onshore reception facilities and travelling regularly on itineraries beyond the territorial waters of coastal States, graywater may only be discharged  while the ship is underway and proceeding at a speed of not less than 6 knots1 and at a distance not less than 4 nautical miles from the nearest land or such other distance as agreed to with authorities having local jurisdiction or provided for by local law except in an emergency or where geographically limited.2

Sewage (also known as Blackwater)

Sewage includes waste water from toilets, urinals, medical sinks and other similar facilities. CLIA Members agree to process all sewage through a sewage treatment system that is certified in accordance with international regulations, prior to discharge. For ships not using onshore reception facilities and travelling regularly on itineraries beyond the territorial water of coastal states, discharge is to take place only when the ship is more than 4 nautical miles from the nearest land and traveling at a speed of not less than 6 knots.3

Advanced Wastewater Treatment Systems

To improve environmental performance, many cruise lines have installed advanced wastewater treatment systems (AWTS) that utilize advanced tertiary-level treatment. These advanced wastewater treatment systems result in effluent discharges that are often equivalent to the best shoreside treatment plants and may therefore not be subjected to the strict discharge limitations noted above. CLIA Members recognize the sensitivity of discharging wastewater and cooperate fully with national and local requirements in planning wastewater discharges where permitted. CLIA, as an organization, encourages the provision of adequate shoreside reception facilities for wastewater where discharge is a concern.

Equivalent Equipment, Practices and Procedures

CLIA members have long been at the forefront of innovative technological solutions regarding the management of waste onboard their ships and it is important that such innovation be encouraged. To that end, CLIA Members welcome the use of equivalent or other acceptable practices and have agreed that any such procedures shall be communicated to CLIA. As appropriate, such practices and procedures may be included as a revision to this document. As an example, when equivalent systems for treating graywater or blackwater are shown to meet the requirements for MSDs and accepted by appropriate authorities for the treatment of graywater or blackwater, the new systems and associated technology may be included in this document together with an explanation of the impact such systems and associated technology may have on the current practice of discharging graywater or blackwater while underway.

1For vessels operating under sail, or a combination of sail and motor propulsion, the speed shall not be less than 4 knots.
2The term “geographically limited” includes special circumstances where a ship is operating in internal waters or shoreward of a territorial sea baseline for an extended period of time, in which case any applicable laws and regulations will be controlling.
3For vessels operating under sail, or a combination of sail and motor propulsion, the speed shall not be less than 4 knots.