Photo: © Antony Velikagathu/

Scrubbers are harmful – and expensive

Ships are required by international regulations to limit their emissions of air pollutants. Instead of using less-polluting fuels, many ship owners have installed so called scrubbers that “clean” the exhaust gases, so they can continue to use cheaper heavy fuel oil. Unfortunately, these scrubbers give rise to polluted water, that is harmful to the marine environment when discharged.

In an article recently published in Nature Sustainability, a group of researchers show that whereas installing scrubbers is good business for ship owners, they are costly for the environment. For the socio-economic aspect, the study focussed on the Baltic Sea, and the researchers calculated that “…the marine ecotoxicity damage cost, from scrubber water discharge in the Baltic Sea Area 2014–2022, amounts to >€680 million in 2019 euros, showing that private economic interests come at the expense of marine environmental damage”.

Source: Lunde Hermansson, A., Hassellöv, IM., Grönholm, T. et al. Strong economic incentives of ship scrubbers promoting pollution. Nat Sustain (2024).

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