MindBullets 20 Years


Plastic from food scraps - increased profits for Princess Cruises

Who would have thought that a cruise liner could function as a ‘green’ factory? The luxury cruise ships that sail the world’s oceans carry a lot of waste. This used to be incinerated or jettisoned back in port. Now, using the latest waste management technology to convert all food waste into a biodegradable plastic, Princess Cruises has reduced its shore-side disposal costs, sidestepped stringent environmental regu-lations and reported record profits. Princess Cruises is one of the world’s biggest cruise lines and was the first in its sector to adopt the most advanced systems from QinetiQ, the world leading technology-based solu-tions provider.

ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be


Building on research by ICI and the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, the process of producing biodegradable polymer from waste food has been proved as a more cost-effective solution than landfill and incineration. In 2003, each passenger onboard a Princess cruise ship generates at least 1.5kg of waste per day – a figure that was set to rapidly increase. From the 8 tons of solid waste generated by a modern cruise liner per week, nearly 25% can now be reclaimed as bioplastic polymer.

The technology has particular application in the marine industry, where all waste must be disposed of in accordance with international law. Biodegradable polymers have further use for naval vessels – both warships and submarines can remain deployed for longer, purely due to lower requirements for shore-based waste disposal.


2002: Biodegradable polymer produced>

Jian Yu and his colleagues at the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute produce biodegradable polymer (PHB) from food scraps. Their initial yield is 22-25% PHB, derived from a slurry mix. They estimate that PHB makes up approximately 70% of the bacterial mass used in the production process.

The British Royal Navy revolutionises onboard waste management techniques by installing an Integrated Water Management System (IWMS) into the latest Type 45 destroyer. The installation, designed by QinetiQ, uses a membrane bioreactor to treat grey water and sewage, as well as maceration and incineration for clinical and galley waste. The design brief for the system requires it to manage 30m3 of liquid and 2m3 of solid waste per day. The IWMS can cope with ten types of shipboard waste, notably food waste, general garbage, grey water and black water. The integrated approach allows greater operational costs and reduced offloading costs.

2003: Princess Cruises part of Carnival Corporation

Princess Cruises, a premiere cruise line, becomes part of the Carnival Corporation (NYSE:CCL), one of the world’s largest vacation companies. The Princess fleet carries more than 800,000 passengers each year to more worldwide destinations – than any other major line.

2005: PHB bioreactors successfully trialled

PHB bioreactors are successfully trialled onboard the International Space Station. The system is required to make optimum use of the minimal available space onboard, yet function efficiently. Useable bioplastic yields of 45% from food waste are recorded. By altering the component parts of the reactor, the composition of the resulting bioplastic can be varied according to demand. Only non-biodegradable waste is now jettisoned or stored.

2006: Bioreactor major contribution to marine waste disposal

Using QinetiQ technology, Princess Cruises pioneers the commercial production of PHB as a waste management strategy onboard its vessels. No longer does all waste have to be incinerated or disposed of at costly shore-side facilities. All food waste and sewage fuels the onboard bioplastic reactor. The bioreactor makes a major contribution to marine waste disposal, leaving the incinerators to destroy clinical and non-biodegradable waste.

2007: Nanotechnology proposed as future of waste disposal

Princess Cruises reports record profits, partly due to reduced costs on waste management.

Nanotechnology is proposed as the future of waste disposal for numerous transport modes. Nanotechnology now assists Oily Water Separators in managing black water and operational hydrocarbon discharges from ships.

Pollution detection and monitoring are now completed by nanotechnology. Valuable resources such as polysaccharides, glycols and methanol are all routinely reclaimed from waste and hydrocarbon-based emissions.

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