Juneau, Alaska is proof that cooperation with cruise lines works. Last year, authorities recorded a 92% reduction in trash from cruise ships versus 2019.
This was achieved without sacrificing tourism, as the capital welcomed 1.64 million cruise passengers in 2023.
According to local data, around 250,000 pounds of trash from cruise ships went to Juneau’s landfill during the summer of 2023. In 2019, more than 3.3 million pounds of trash were dumped—marking an impressive improvement.
|For added context, the city produces about 100 tons or 220,462 pounds of waste daily. This means that cruise lines generated about a day’s worth of trash for the entire year.
Tourism Manager Alix Pierce added that the win didn’t come at the cost of tourism since Juneau hosted over a million cruise ship passengers last year, 30% higher than their busiest cruise season in 2019.
Thanks to a memorandum of agreement established in 2020 between the city and the cruise lines that dock there, it’s all thanks. “It’s over a 90% reduction, which is what we were going for with the agreements. What we’re doing is exciting, and it takes a lot of collaboration and coordination, but we’re making real change in our community,” declared Juneau’s tourism manager.
What can we learn from Juneau?
One of the key measures that significantly reduced the amount of trash from cruise ships was prohibiting them from throwing bulky and huge items into the local landfill. Pierce said that cruise ships would offload items like furniture and mattresses.
Instead of ending up in Juneau, the trash has been redirected to the cruise ships’ home ports, cities like Vancouver, Victoria, and Seattle, according to information from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).
Juneau’s next steps
Pierce commented that they have four docks in the port—two private and two public. The city’s next step is to improve communication and exert better regulatory control over the private docks. The overall objective is to maintain greater oversight so that the city is instantly informed when trash is offloaded from them.
Renée Reeve, a spokesperson for CLIA, recognized the accomplishment as an industry first. “This is something that isn’t done in other places in the world. And it a first of its kind and I think the ability of the industry and the community to work together is extremely important as we address tough issues together,” she stated.
Juneau, Alaska, is one of the largest cruise ports in Alaska.