Where Does It All Go?


While it’s not a glamorous topic to discuss, waste management is a critical component of sustainable tourism. Many of our trip operators have implemented innovative waste management systems to tackle their climate impacts head-on, and to refrain from contributing to localized water and land pollution. From oil-water separators and on-board human waste treatment plants, to plastic-free initiatives, we’re highlighting just a few of the impactful efforts put forth by our operators in the Galapagos Islands.


One of our operators has partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to reduce waste aboard their ships, with the end goal of achieving zero-waste operations. These efforts focus primarily on food waste, by implementing new, innovative food management strategies that deliver high quality cuisines with minimal environmental impacts and waste. While enough food is currently being produced to feed the entire global population - according to the WWF - approximately 40% of all food produced is lost or wasted. To dine on sustainably-sourced, thoughtfully-prepared cultural cuisine and to limit food waste associated with your travels while experiencing the wonders of the Galapagos, check out this fantastic adventure on the M/V Evolution, a spacious and attractive ship styled after a 1920’s steamer.


Two additional innovative waste management systems on Galapagos-based ships include oil-water separators and human waste treatment plants. Ship engines produce a mixture of oil and water, which needs to be separated prior to discharging the waste stream out of the ship. Our operator’s ships have implemented the use of new oil-water separator machines that extract the maximum possible amount of oil from the waste stream. These machines exceed current regulatory limits to avoid river and ocean contamination. These ships also have premium quality Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) to treat the human waste onboard so that it does not contaminate the water or land when it is disposed of. The thoughtful and innovative design of these ships is also reflected in the comfort and beauty of the interiors. Explore the Galapagos in sustainable style on this operator’s new 50 meter super-yacht, the Aqua Mare.


Other operators have focused on plastic waste mitigation as a step to reducing their climate impacts. Plastics can have profoundly negative impacts on marine life, making them a key target in waste reduction strategies. One Galapagos operator banned plastic bottle use on all ships and expeditions back in 2011, and has since banned plastic straws and greatly reduced their remaining single-plastic usage. As an alternative to plastic bottles, all travelers are given metal reusable bottles at the start of the trip, which are refilled by the operator with safe, filtered drinking water. Another operator has supported the Charles Darwin Foundation to lead over 1,000 school children on beach cleanups across the islands. The plastics collected on the cleanups have been utilized to construct a sculpture that is on permanent display at the Charles Darwin Research Center to inspire locals and visitors alike to reduce plastic waste and protect the ocean. To support these plastic-free initiatives while taking in the beauty of the Galapagos, be sure to explore the itineraries on the National Geographic Endeavour II and the National Geographic Islander, two legendary ships offering some of the highest quality guiding and wildlife viewing in the Galapagos Islands.


Innovative waste management plans and initiatives can come in many different forms, from treatment systems to plastic bans, and are crucial to protecting the natural beauty and wellbeing of the Galapagos. Consider making your future travels more sustainable by opting for journeys that limit human-generated waste impacts on both marine and land-based environments!