Q&A: IMPA SAVE tackles plastic waste on ships

Please note this article was originally published as a feature in Marine Log, one of the largest circulation and most popular B to B marine magazines in the world. It is herewith posted with the agreement of the interviewee with minor, requested amendments. To read the original piece, please visit the following link: http://www.marinelog.com/views/qas/qa-impa-save-tackles-plastic-waste-on-ships/

Mikael Karlsson began his business journey by studying economics in the United States through a soccer scholarship at Walsh University, earning his bachelor’s degree in economics. He also won a national soccer championship while there.

In 2021, he gained a certification specializing in business strategy at Harvard Business School.

Looking to put this knowledge to good use, he established IMPA Save in 2020, an organization aiming to influence and support the marine and offshore industry to reduce single use plastic on ships.

Alongside IMPA Save, Karlsson is head of business development at Northern Marine Group, an IMPA Save supporter.

Marine Log (ML): First, can you tell us a bit about IMPA Save and how it came to be? 

Mikael Karlsson (MK): I was watching a documentary from Lord Howe Island in 2019 on how the bird population had decreased by 30% over a ten-year period. The main cause was plastic bits that inevitably attached to algae and was then eaten by birds and/or fed to bird chicks. A bird had up to 97 bits of plastics inside! I was surprised that this was even a problem to begin with and felt dumb that I had no idea. I started reading up on this and started seeing the plastic problem and waste polluting our oceans. I went to the IMPA exhibition in 2019 wearing a recycled suit and an armband of bottle caps to make a statement, and I was after asked to start IMPA Save, and so the journey began.

ML: Who makes up IMPA Save? Are there shipping companies involved? 

MK: I wrote up the goals for the IMPA Save journey, then consulted trusted friends on the idea of reducing plastic bottles, reduce soaps and chemicals, more sustainable food, etc. All thought this was a good idea as we have solutions to the problem, and these individuals wanted to be part of this and to collaborate. These like-minded individuals represented major companies, such as Maersk Procurement, Scorpio Group, Weco, Wilhelmsen Ship Management, Northern Marine, Teekay, Oceanic Catering, and many more.

ML: What sustainable solutions would you recommend to the greater maritime industry? 

MK: I have stated many times, this initiative is about “saving the environment while saving cost too, so what’s not to like? It’s doing the right thing”. So, we at IMPA Save created a pledge for ship-owners and -managers to reduce the use of plastic drinking water bottles onboard their ships. This was a straight-forward action with a brilliant solution. We found that, on average, a ship consumes close to 18,000 liters of drinking water onboard a year, having cost of bottles, transport and waste, amounting a cost at $6,000 to $9,000. We then found solutions to produce the drinking water onboard to make a ships self-sufficient with water onboard, saving costs, too, and reducing the environmental footprint.

On this journey, we understood companies needed some stock of bottled water and have, through suppliers in the industry, got carton packaged solutions available to the ships in regions not possible a year ago. However, we are not suggesting replacing all stocked plastic bottled water with carton. We are simply saying onboard the water production solution and, if any excess stock of bottled water is needed, choose carton over plastic. 

ML: How can people get involved with IMPA Save? 

MK: Today, there are close to 50 owners and managers committed with more than 10,000 ships, and we also have suppliers pledge, so they can also support the change needed in the supply chain. Owners and managers can sign up on our website www.IMPAsave.org and pledge their company. It is free of charge and takes less than 10 minutes. We want all owners and managers onboard—no one on the outside.

Other actions we have fronted have been the reduction of other single-use items onboard. At the moment, two ship-owners on our IMPA Save board are testing cleaning and disinfecting solutions made onboard vessels. We are working on waste management solutions and mapping the environmental journey on line items, with more to come.

I truly believe IMPA Save is on the forefront on sustainable procurement actions and every owner and manager should be onboard.

Established in June 2020 by a strong group of global ship-owners and maritime suppliers representing companies with a combined fleet of more than one thousand vessels and a massive collective purchasing power, IMPA SAVE is now an initiative in the agenda of close to 15% of the global fleet and tens of global suppliers, all of whom are working towards a greener industry. By bringing members from the industry together under SAVE, the initiative aims to create opportunities not only to share knowledge on better, more sustainable practices and alternatives, but also to motivate each other to be better stewards of our oceans through committing and regular impact reporting. SAVE’s mantra is simple and essential to guarding the people, our planet, profit and our higher purpose: save costs to save the environment. Join us today: www.impasave.org.