Circular Economy is a concept that’s frequented conversations surrounding sustainability. But what does it mean? According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a circular economy, ‘is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.’

The design of a circular economy is a system which keeps products in use for longer and reuses and recycles materials for new products. By closing the loop of materials – product – waste, a circular economy targets overuse of resource and polluting by-products at the start of a product’s lifecycle, and targets unnecessary waste and polluting by-products at the end of a product’s lifecycle. This system aims at being a financially-viable and incredibly effective sustainable solution.

We ask, can it work for cruise ship interiors and the supply chain?

Circular Economy is an economic system that is regenerative by design

Bjorn Smeets, Former Manager: National Procurement, Dura Vermee

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

The cruise interiors and cruise hospitality industries are making strides towards improving their sustainability. Companies such as Shores Global have created furniture crafted from repurposed ocean waste, while cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean have eliminated plastic straws from their onboard offerings. However, as scientists issue frank and devastating warnings about the consequences of global warming and filling the planet with waste, it’s clear that no one company can do it alone. To ensue a drastic change, the industry (in fact, all industries) need to make drastic changes.

Economists and sustainability thinkers believe that a circular economy is just the revolution that industries need. Suppliers, outfitters and shipyards – or any parties involved in the purchase of materials – will need to adapt their materials process. One method could be to lease materials from a raw materials supplier, who will then collect materials at the end of the product’s lifecycle for recycling and reusing. Suppliers who generate their own materials, such as fabric, flooring or cladding suppliers may themselves do the leasing, collecting their product at the end of the lifecycle and reclaiming the materials for new or refurbished products.

What to do with large-scale waste is a question that dogs refurbishment projects. Could instigating a circular economy system be the answer? Cruise ship refurbishment is an essential way to refresh old tonnage, keep a cruise ship brand consistent and update ships with popular new features. As refurbishments can range in scale from revamping a handful of cabins or public spaces, to slicing a ship in half and inserting an extension. As might be expected, these processes create a lot of waste that could be usefully redistributed within a circular economy.

Waste is a design flaw

Kate Krebs, Director of Industry Affairs, Closed Loop Beverage Fund

Where is the Business Opportunity?

It might seem like a straightforward issue. If products are designed for longevity then surely businesses will suffer thanks to a drop in sales. However, nimble operators who are always looking to find the opportunity in change may see several advantages to adjusting their business model.

One such opportunity comes from the maintenance of products. Suppliers do not sell their products, but lease them. This may be for a set period of time or for the lifetime of the product. By offering a maintenance contract the manufacturer or supplier opens up a new revenue stream with the outfitter or shipyard. Maintenance leasing is one of the mainstays of a functioning circular economy, ensuring that manufacturers are able to financially rewarded for producing long-lasting, sustainable products.

Leasing of the products also means that all products return to the manufacturer or supplier at the end of their lifecycle. Ideally, within a circular economy, these materials will be recycled or reused. This lowers the cost of materials for the manufacturer or supplier. In some cases a material may have an initial outlay and then remain in a company’s ‘bank’ for years, repurposed into new products several times over.

There is a lot of material that is very useable from drydocks that goes into landfill – I wish there was a company out there that could figure out a solution to recycle products in the time they are in drydock

My Nguyen, Director Interior Design & Operations | Holland America Group and Seabourn

New Solutions

At a recent Cruise Ship Interiors Expo Europe conference, Jacco van Overbeek of Bolidt, discussed how the company was developing a system to eliminate waste from their liquid floor laying process. Their aim is to collect the dust from sanding the floors and repour it into a machine to generate new material. This material will not need to be passed through additional IMO tests as it will contain the same properties as the original, approved material. This repurposing of ‘waste’ allows companies to stretch their material outlay further in addition to saving on waste transportation and disposal.

What do you think? Have you spotted a business opportunity in the circular economy model? Have you any other ideas for sustainable cruise ship interiors?