Global shipping companies comply with anti-air-pollution rules by dumping pollution into the sea, instead

A bag full of poop is 0.0000000000000013% the percentage of the Earth, but you wouldn’t want to eat it with a spoon.

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The waste is released near the surface, which is the most biologically important part of the ocean, and it’s 180M ton per year. Some of the stuff may break down rapidly, but some of the nastier stuff is persistent.

Sulphur amitted into the air reflects light and thus cool the planet, so a short term effect of this ban is going to be a small warming, but I doubt it’ll be large enough to be visible above the noise.


Yes, fair, the surface ocean is ~10% of the volume of the total ocean, so drop a zero from the percentage I mentioned above. And local impacts around busy ports may be worrisome. In terms of driving ocean acidification, though, the ocean is very well-buffered, and I would be very surprised if the SO2 emitted from diesel combustion would cause one thousandth of the change in ocean acididty that atmospheric CO2 increases are causing. I don’t see a lot of information in this article about what the actual impacts of these scrubbers are in terms of increasing the concentrations of pollutants, only people saying “this wastewater contains bad things”, which is undeniably true. I wouldn’t drink a cup of your urine. I’d drink a cup of water that came from a lake you peed in. I’m just saying, the environmental costs of hauling a bunch of wastewater around on boats, and then disposing of that water on land, might outstrip the harm of pumping it into the ocean. I don’t know, but I don’t think the author of this article knows either.

This is what all forms of pollution control do. Power plant stack scrubbers, catalytic converters, urea injection, particulate filters, they all just move pollution to somewhere where it will do less harm usually from the air to the water (sometimes with a layover in a landfill). The only way to eliminate pollution is to switch to forms of energy which don’t create it. There are currently no such options for ships.



Of the 3,756 ships – mostly oil tankers, container ships and bulk carriers – that have been equipped with open-loop scrubbers, only 23 store the sulphur for safe disposal in port; the rest dump it straight into the ocean.

I should have been more specific vis-a-vis ship types. :smile: Let’s say, “no viable alternative for the Panamax and larger container ships that literally make possible every single comfort and convenience of modern life”. If it’s in your house or in your life, a ship probably brought it.

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