Are Jet Skis Bad for the Environment? 4 Things You Should Know


Are Jet Skis Bad for the Environment

Since jet skis do not have large propellers that harm fish, you might think they have a minimal impact on the marine ecosystem.

However, jet skis are not good for the environment because they produce noise pollution, which is harmful to marine life.

They can also leak fuel into the ocean, burn fossil fuels and emit air pollutants.

Here’s everything you need to know about the environmental impact of jet skis.

1. How Do Jet Skis Affect the Environment?

There are several ways jet skis can negatively affect the environment.

Jet skis can impact the environment by causing pollution. 

If you spend three hours on a jet ski, you could potentially emit around 730 pounds / 331 kg of carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas. 

Jet ski engines could also potentially release other pollutants, like fuel and nitrogen oxide, which contribute to the greenhouse effect and impact marine life.

Aside from releasing pollutants, riding jet skis can also disturb the ecosystem. 

For example, in some areas, tourists can even be prosecuted if their jet ski use disturbs protected wildlife.

There’s also the lifespan of a jet ski to take into account. 

You might see a lot of claims about jet skis lasting 300 hours, so it’s hard to break that down into exactly how many years you can expect your jet ski to last since not everyone will use theirs at the same frequency. It also depends on the type of engine used.

Either way, jet skis can last for several years, but you will probably go through several jet skis in your life if you’re an avid user. 

It seems that four-stroke jet skis can last up to a decade, providing 300-500 hours of use, while two-stroke ones can provide 150-250 hours of use, which could see the jet ski lasting approximately five years.

Old jet skis cannot be accepted in curb recycling programs.

You can send them to a boat salvage yard, which can find ways to reuse parts. 

Jet skis are made from a few different materials, they’re likely to contain metal.

For example, the propellers, steering nozzles, or handlebars are usually made of steel.

Metal is non-renewable and is sourced via mining which is a huge source of pollution and also physically degrades the environment.

Fortunately, metal is recyclable and can be recycled an unlimited amount of times.

The hull on standard jet skis is usually made of fiberglass or sheet molding compound (SMC).

Both of these are types of plastic, as SMC is a thermosetting resin.

Plastic is also non-renewable and is sourced via mining. 

Plus, it can only be recycled a limited amount of times, so overall, it is not a sustainable material.

The kind of jet skis used for racing is usually made with a lighter carbon fiber hull.

Most carbon fiber is made from polyacrylonitrile (PAN), which is petroleum-based.

2. How Much Pollution Do Jet Skis Produce?

Although you might not think of jet skis as something that would produce emissions, they’re actually pretty potent polluters.

Jet skis are usually powered by gasoline which is a fossil fuel. 

As mentioned earlier, using a jet ski for three hours can emit a few hundred pounds of CO2. 

Jet skis with two-stroke engines can actually cause water pollution as they leak unburned fuel into the ocean. 

It’s not clear if four-stroke engines have the same issue. 

Up to 25% of the fuel in jet skis with these kinds of engines may not combust and instead is flushed into the ocean in vapor emissions. 

This is detrimental to marine life.

For example, exposure to these fuels can cause phototoxicity, which means some kinds of marine life will die when exposed to sunlight.

Jet skis can also cause pollution by emitting nitrogen oxide – which is a greenhouse gas.

This is a big cause of concern as nitrogen oxide has substantially more of a warming potential than carbon dioxide – in fact, it’s 310 times more potent than CO2. 

3. Do Jet Skis Harm Marine Life?

Although noise typically scares fish away, they are occasionally killed by boat propellers, but fortunately, this is not usually the case with jet skis.

This is because jet skis are pretty compact, and there are no propellers or rudders in the water that would harm fish should they come into contact with them.

However, noise pollution can still be detrimental to marine life and interfere with the ecosystem.

For example, noise can overshadow the sound of approaching predators putting more fish at risk than there would be otherwise.

On the flip side, it can also mask the sounds made by prey, leaving some kinds of marine life struggling to feed themselves.

Noise can also drive marine life into new areas, which can disrupt a pre-existing ecosystem as more prey or predators enter a new area.

Plus, the noise from jet skis stresses marine life out and can have negative health consequences.

This includes hearing loss, tissue damage, and even death. 

4. Are There Eco-Friendly Jet Skis?

One of the main reasons jet skis are unsustainable is that they use fossil fuels and generate emissions, so electric jet skis are a more sustainable choice.

With that said, electric jet skis or vehicles might not give off tailpipe emissions, but that does not mean they are carbon neutral.

They still need to be charged, but given that approximately 60% of the electricity generated in the United States comes from fossil fuels, these still somewhat contribute to pollution and reliance on non-renewable energy.

With that said, it is a step in the right direction.

These jet skis may also be quieter than standard jet skis, meaning they might not cause as much marine disturbance.

There have also been moves to develop renewable, plant-based carbon fiber from lignin, but it’s not clear if it would be suitable for jet skis.

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