Queen Mary 2 has been described as a city at sea. However, like any city, waste materials and garbage are a byproduct of everyday life. In these days of increased environmental awareness, such items must be disposed of in a responsible manner that complies with applicable laws. Ensuring such compliance is the responsibility of Queen Mary 2's Environmental Compliance Officer, Ariadna Mayoral. “I make sure that we are complying with the regulations in every environmental aspect.”
Underscoring the significance of her position is the fact that Ms. Mayoral, who has a degree in environmental science, is a three-stripe officer. “The Environmental Officer on the ship reports directly to the captain and through the captain to shoreside. The captain is my boss here but I also report to [Carnival UK's head] office. It is an important role and if the Environmental Officer plays an important role that means that the company is committed to protecting the environment.”
Environmental rule number one is that “nothing can go overboard.” Every crew member coming aboard is informed of this policy during his or her induction training. Passengers arriving in their staterooms at the beginning of a voyage find a video playing on their television telling them not to throw anything into the sea. The policy is clear - - Cunard “is very concerned about the protection of the environment.”
So if the garbage is not tossed into the sea, what happens to it?
Cunard follows the “3R's rule” which seeks to promote “reduce, reuse and recycle” waste. Accordingly, garbage is collected from the staterooms, public areas, and crew areas and is brought to QM2's waste handling room. About 11,000 cubic meters of waste is processed each year weighing about 2,000 tons.
The cabin stewards and others who collect the garbage attempt to separate it into different categories. However, once in the waste handling room, the garbage is sorted by hand into various categories such as recyclable materials, hazardous waste, food waste, items suitable for incineration, and items suitable for donation. This two step review is done “in order to ensure that we are recycling as much as possible.”
The waste handling room operates 24 hours day and is manned by six people (three per shift).
“We recycle about 50 percent of what we generate onboard.”
The largest category of recyclables is glass. After all the wine and beer has been consumed, the empty bottles still remain. Approximately 300 tons of wine and beer bottles are crushed, collected in bags and sent ashore for recycling each year.
“We try to recycle as much as possible with regard to cardboard and paper. We could burn this easily because it is a combustible material. But our policy is to try and keep it and off-load it ashore for recycling.” QM2 produces 200 tons of cardboard for recycling each year.
Similarly, plastic is shredded and compacted. Some types of plastic such as plastic water bottles could be incinerated under the applicable laws. However, under Cunard's pro-recycling policy, they are kept for recycling ashore. 35 tons of compacted plastic waste is recycled each year.
15,000 liters of used cooking oil is sent ashore for recycling into bio-diesel fuel every year.
Some 25 tons of aluminum cans and 80 tons of steel cans are recycled.
“We do everything via the port agents. Three or four days in advance, I send them a waste disposal notification form telling them what we foresee off-loading. Then they arrange it with the local vendors. These vendors have to be authorized to operate in the port and comply with all regulations.”
Reducing the volume
Not everything is suitable for recycling. Consequently, about half of the waste produced on QM2 is burnt. This garbage is first fed into giant shredding machines and from there into incinerators. “We have twin incinerators. The silo of each incinerator is 25 cubic meters.”
Burning reduces the volume of this waste by 80 percent. Approximately 150 tons of ash are produced each year.
There are some types of garbage that cannot be recycled and which cannot be burned because it is non-combustible (e.g., broken china). “It is off-loaded ashore so that it can send it to a landfill or final destination with regard to each type of waste stream.”
Queen Mary 2 is known for its dining. Of course, as in any kitchen, preparing and cooking meals yields some waste. Similarly, the passengers and crew do not eat everything that is on their plates. Thus, the ship needs to dispose of a substantial quantity of food waste.
Food waste is sent from the ship's 10 galleys via large vacuum tubes to a collecting tank in the waste handling area. From there, “we extract the water and then we turn the food waste into a puree. [The granules] have to less than 25 millimeters in size.”
Left to right: Waste Disposal Engineer Ronald Pedrano; Environmental Compliance Officer Ariadna Mayoral; Waste Disposal Engineer Leonardo Palarao.
It is then discharged at night into the sea when the ship is more than 12 nautical miles from land. Some countries permit such discharges closer to shore but Cunard uniformly follows the standards set forth in “the strictest regulations.”
Some food waste, such as large bones and pineapple tops, that cannot be turned into a puree is incinerated onboard or off-loaded ashore.
Because foreign species could harm native crops and otherwise disrupt the local ecosystem, countries such as the United States require special handling of garbage that may have come into contact with food, e.g., trays used in the galleys. Such garbage is set aside for inspection by local authorities. After passing inspection, it is off-loaded into special government containers for disposal ashore.
Humans, of course, create waste products. In order to handle this waste, QM2 has its own waste water treatment plant.
“Black water is human waste. Grey water is comprised of the water from the hand basins, the showers, the galleys etc. and that goes to a different area of the plant.”
“Once it is treated it can be discharged [into the sea]. Black water can only be discharged outside of 12 nautical miles. Gray water can be discharged outside of four miles. It is the only liquid waste stream that we discharge outside of four miles. Everything else is outside 12.”
The bio-mass that is separated from the water during the treatment process is incinerated.
The transportation of people and things produces waste products. Consequently, just as the cars and trucks that move people and things around a city are subject to environmental regulation, there are rules governing the propulsion of a ship.
For example, the emissions that come from burning fuel to power the ship's enormous engines are subject to regulation. “Part of my duties is to ensure that every time we enter a sulfur emission control area, we change over to low sulfur fuel. Also in Europe, we can only burn marine gas oil when we are in port.”
Sludge, created when the fuel oil is purified for use in the ship's engines, as well as bilge water is collected in separate storage tanks. “The sludge is off-loaded ashore. I arrange these off-loads with the different vendors ashore via the port agents.” Bilge water is processed through the oily water separators and can be discharged into the sea when it contains less than 15 ppm of oil. “Everything has to be logged and monitored and [entered] into the oil record book.”
“Hazardous waste is the most restrictive solid category that we have onboard. [In general], we cannot burn it, we have to land it ashore.” Consequently, most hazardous waste is temporarily stored on the ship and then off-loaded ashore to the authorized vendors.
This waste includes a wide range of items: “sharps from the medical center or from the different guest staterooms; oil filters; florescents and any types of lamps that can contain mercury; TVs and monitors; batteries; cans with paint or varnish; chemicals which are not in use anymore etc.”
Such waste is stored apart from the other waste in a separate area, which is always locked. It is continually monitored by the waste disposal supervisor and the environmental officer.
Hazardous waste is only off-loaded in certain ports where the waste vendors have “been inspected by a member of our company to make sure that they meet all of the standards, all the requirements and regulations. We always make sure the vendor is authorized and is taking good care of it and taking it to the appropriate final destination.”
Some types of hazardous waste can be incinerated on the ship. An example is “red bags” - - bags from “the different staterooms and the medical department [containing garbage] that has potentially been in contact with any virus or bacteria.” Burning these bags reduces the potential for the virus spreading.
Other examples of hazardous waste that can be incinerated are expired medicine and such things as oily or paint rags.
All through the process of handling hazardous wastes, there is a stream of paperwork in order to ensure compliance with procedures and applicable law.
In sum, environmental considerations enter into essentially every aspect of Queen Mary 2's operation from discharging ballast water to the cleaning the decks. Even such things as the onboard photography is covered inasmuch as processing the photos involves the use of chemicals and silver. “We really take part in all the decisions that are made.” The goal is to maintain Queen Mary 2 as an environmentally friendly ship.
Cruise ship interview - - Cunard Line - - Queen Mary 2 - - Environmental Compliance Officer Ariadna Mayoral