Single-use plastics are to be abolished from the entire MSC Cruises’ global fleet with a pledge to introduce sustainable alternatives if available.

The line plans to ‘effectively phase out’ an extensive number of plastic items from all its ship operations and ashore and will replace them with environmentally-friendly solutions by next March.

All plastic straws will be replaced with 100% compostable and biodegradable substitutes by the end of 2018 as a first step.

The aim is to provide eco-friendly alternatives made of 100% biodegradable resins, consisting of renewable resources including corn- or sugar-based polylactic acid, bamboo, paper or other organic materials.

The company is also working with suppliers at all levels in the supply chain to effectively remove single-use plastics in products and packaging wherever possible.

By March 2019, all single-use plastic shopping bags, spoons, glasses, stirrers and other single-use plastic items for which substitution is available will be permanently phased out and replaced by environmentally-friendly alternatives, according to the company.

Packaging from single-portion items such as butter cups, jams or yoghurts will be removed and processes will be optimised to provide passenger-friendly and convenient solutions.

UK & Ireland managing director Antonio Paradiso said: “Our passion is the sea and we are always working hard to grow and evolve our business with a mind-set to respect the environment and the oceans which we operate in.

“Our plastic reduction programme aims to move at a very fast pace and by end of December 2018, we will already reach a first milestone by phasing out all single-use plastic straws, followed by another milestone in March 2019 when virtually all single-use plastics will be removed or replaced if alternatives are available.

“The depth and diligence of this programme is exceptional and unique; it is not only about single-use plastic straws, or small ‘visible’ restaurant items, the programme also looks at eliminating all ‘invisible’ single-use plastic items from the entire supply chain.

“We are working with thousands of partners and suppliers to ensure that our environmental stewardship programme matches the innovation of our next generation smart fleet.”

Executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago said: “We are now exploring working with a leading global certification company to assure any remaining plastic items, for which there currently are no viable substitutes yet, are effectively recycled.

“This will ensure end-to-end – no matter where our ships are deployed – that these remaining items from across all our ship operations not only do not have an impact on the sea, but also on land for the benefit of the populations that we touch with our operations globally.”