Food for thought: How your next oily takeaway dinner really could help reduce toxic emissions
THE BIG PICTURE
Waste oil from fast food and takeaway meals could help the global shipping sector hit new emissions targets by switching to biofuels.
Sea freight is a major contributor to pollution.
Under the 'International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships', the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is introducing new limits for sulphur oxides (SOx) emissions from shipping, according to a paper from the World Economic Forum (WEF).
The level of SOx emissions will have to fall to just 0.50pc mass per mass from 3.50pc mass per mass due to targets which come into effect next year
SOx is known to be harmful to human health. In addition, in the atmosphere, SOx can lead to acid rain. Reducing these emissions reduces air pollution and leads to a cleaner environment.
There are several ways in which the emissions can be reduced.
Switching to biofuels will be one of the options for ships in reducing emissions. This is where used cooking fats and oil comes in. They can be recycled used as biofuels - though no one has yet cracked the challenge of collecting waste oil on a large scale.
Biofuels, such as biodiesel and bio-methane, could help achieve reductions in CO2 emissions by as much as 80-90pc.
DHL has a partnership with GoodShipping Program, an organisation that promotes the use of biofuel in the sea freight sector. Under the scheme, people using DHL's shipping division can select biofuels rather than fossil fuels when having their items shipped.
However, there are a number of challenges facing biofuel before it can become a mainstream option for the shipping sector, according to the WEF.
The first is supply. Recycling oils and fats is a viable option for creating small amounts of biofuel, but the output volumes are dependent on supply.
There is currently no robust, reliable infrastructure for the collection and processing of biofuels that can operate at large volumes. That's despite the fact that disposing of cooking oil is a real headache for the food industry.
In addition, high volumes of biofuel would need to be guaranteed for shipping companies to invest in the necessary engine technology to make biofuel a safe, reliable option across their fleets.
Also, there is no existing global supply infrastructure for biofuel.
Other ways in which the reduction in SOx emissions can be met by shipping companies includes the use of fuel with a lower sulphur content, such as liquified natural gas, and the fitting of equipment in ships to filter exhaust fumes.
But reducing emissions in transport is a constant battle. Air travel also produces large volumes of harmful emissions and by 2020, emissions from the aviation industry are likely to be 70pc higher than they were in 2005.