In less than a year since IMPA SAVE’s inception, Paolo Magonio, Group Procurement Manager at Scorpio and dedicated IMPA SAVE Council Member, proudly reported that all of Scorpio’s 200+ managed vessels have now been fitted with water filtration systems that have significantly reduced plastic bottles onboard… Today, we talk to Paolo to give our readers a motivational insight into the company’s journey to less plastic.

Paolo, thanks for taking the time to share your story with our readers. First things first, why plastic bottles?

Everything big starts small. Sustainability is at the core of Scorpio’s practice and we are on a journey to minimise our environmental footprint as much as possible. Our Seafarer’s simply identified plastic drinking water bottles onboard our vessels as being one of the easier environmental challenges out there. With an average of 22 seafarers on each of our 200+ vessels, we were looking at more than 1 million plastic bottles delivered every year to our ships – something needed to be done to reduce this massive amount. While our journey began slightly before IMPA SAVE was created, I was delighted when asked to join the Council to lead an industry-wide campaign to reduce plastic bottles onboard the world’s fleet. It was an excellent opportunity to bring Scorpio’s experience as a contribution to SAVE and allow the industry to progress on plastic waste reduction.

When did you begin exploring this project?

The whole initiative came from our crew members as they care about the environment they work at, as well as their environmental way of thinking which we as Scorpio support via the environmental learning.

In Scorpio, we are aware that today, single-use plastic packaging is the biggest source of waste, so we have taken these facts into the consideration and action to rethink plastic. We rolled up our sleeves and started approaching this subject in the summer of 2019 as part of a wider initiative on waste reduction onboard of our vessels. We carefully listened to our seafarers, their ideas and needs. With all the insights we have gained, we started scanning for solutions; we looked at different types of systems and even considered replacing bottles with larger containers as a last resort. We realised choosing an equipment that produces drinkable water through osmosis and filters was the way to go, as it created little to no waste in the long run; the risk, uncertainty and cost of maintenance of these systems, however, made us look a bit further into available options.

How have you started rolling out this initiative and what were the immediate challenges?

We put in place this equipment as a trial on one vessel, so our seafarers could experience the solution and its simplicity. Then we increased to 9 vessels, collecting feedback and potable water testing results which were shared with everyone. In the quest for selecting proper refillable containers, as the health of our crew is for us at the top of the list, we have invested into high-quality stainless steel flasks for their personal use, as this is the safest type of refillable bottle to drink from. Stainless steel is a non-toxic material that does not need a liner, can be washed at high temperatures, greatly reducing the risk of water contamination from bacteria, protect our crew from microplastic and other contaminants. Today we see that this decision was the best as washing stainless steel bottles regularly with soap and hot water kills the bacteria easily and efficiently so our crew can stay safe during the COVID 19 pandemic. Every crew member is gifted a Scorpio stainless steel reusable flask, they love it! As this whole project has been developed hand in hand with our crew, this change onboard has been implemented with pride as it is their idea and solution..

Have you faced any cultural challenges with this project?

Not at all, as our seafarer’s point out that the plastic onboard of our vessels should be limited and we have cooperated as we needed to listen their suggestions, needs and ideas and look up information, facts and solution the market can offer. This project has won the hearts and souls of our people onboard as well as on shore, which support our development and awareness on the environmental culture and in general the issues around the global plastic waste crisis. It is also very good to see the amount of water this solution produces and the high quality as we continuously run testing of the water and the results are shared with everyone. Our crew understand very well that water filtration system is good for their health

But there was something else that you did differently than most, wasn’t it? You call this ‘water-as-a-service’.

Yes, we outsourced, managing to turn a potential investment and a cost into a saving. To explain further, right after we tested the water onboard and gained the confidence and feedback of our crew initially, we extended the installation of this equipment to 9 pilot vessels. However, we found ourselves discussing the return on investment internally and we started being a bit concerned, not necessarily about the value of the machines themselves, but the risk, uncertainty and cost of maintenance surrounding them. So we discussed this with our current on-vessel catering supplier who also provided our bottled water and asked them to support this initiative. In other words, they would purchase, install, and maintain the system, while we continued to pay a flat fee per person per day for water. It turned to be a win-win-win situation, for the catering supplier who continued to provide water as a service, for us, as we are now paying slightly less than before for more and better-quality water onboard our vessels, for the crew enjoying larger quantity of good quality and controlled water and of course, for the environment.

… and in Q1 of this year, you told us you did it! 100% of your vessels are now fitted with these systems, right?

Indeed, and I am proud to confirm this! Each vessel we own, run and manage is now fitted with two machines; two is not needed, but we wanted to provide at least two centralised points on each vessel to grant better access to the crew and for redundancy. We have not only achieved a cost reduction of 15%, but we also increased the quantity (we can now produce between 250 and 300 litres of fresh water per day per machine) and improved the quality of drinking water onboard, while also saving more than a million bottles from going to landfill each year.

A fantastic achievement, Paolo, and hopefully motivating for our other pledgers and potential pledgers.

I certainly hope it is. We have one planet, and it is important to rectify issues that are in our control. The health of our seafarers, our industry and our ocean are deeply interlinked. Even if you pledge and only manage to reduce plastic bottle use by 40%, that is still significant. If you are looking for the right time to start, take this as a sign that the right time is now.