Wednesday, June 16, 2021

How to keep Trash off your boat and out of the ocean!


Trash.  It is a big problem, for a sailboat… and the world.

Planet Earth is turning into a giant trash bin.  Everywhere you go, even the remotest island in the world, there is trash.  Even if people are not there tossing it on the ground, our trash washes up on shore.  It is a disgrace to the human race.  So, as sailors, how do we become part of the solution instead of adding to the problem?

On S/V Lynx, we plan to attack this from two directions.  First off, we will not become part of the problem and, secondly, we plan to work to reduce the amount of trash left by others.  Below you can read about how we plan to attach these two things, starting with picking up trash. 

Picking up Trash:

Every time we go to a new beach, or if we see trash floating, we plan to pick up trash and then dispose of it properly.  The sad fact is, doing so will not put a dent, not even a tiny scratch, in the epic mass of trash infesting our waters and shores.  If what we do will not make a difference, then why try to clean up trash at all?  The answer is simple.  If everyone picked up more trash than they put down, there would be no trash around the world.  Of course, we cannot make others pick up trash, but we can do our little part, and will.


How do we handle our own trash?

OK, now let’s talk about how we can help by not adding our own trash.  

The issue is non-degradable waste.  When you buy groceries, unless it is a fruit or vegetable, the purchase likely comes in a container.  Some stores even wrap fruits and vegetables in plastic or put them in a plastic box.  The same thing goes for buying meats.

Wrappings and boxes can be made of metal, glass, paper, cardboard, or plastic.  It is obvious, or should be, that any form of plastic is non-biodegradable and should never be tossed in the ocean.  Paper wrappings may have a plastic coating, also making them non-degradable. 

As for glass, it takes a long time to break down glass.  And even though it does not have the same issues as plastic, it can end up on a beach and become a health issue (broken glass).  Some say that it is all right to fill a glass bottle so that it sinks to the bottom of the ocean, yet we disagree.  Glass should be properly disposed of, hopefully, recycled. 


And what about aluminum or tin cans? 

Aluminum cans will take something like 200 years to break down, and they are most often coated on the inside in plastic.  Therefore, they should be recycled and never tossed in the ocean.

Tin cans also often have a plastic inner coating, so they should also be recycled.


So, what can you toss in the ocean without guilt or adding to pollution?

Fruit and vegetable parts, like rinds, and paper (without plastic linings).  Both of these break down in various ways.




What about cardboard?

Yes, this is paper and can be put in the ocean to break down... but, the truth is, you should not bring cardboard on board in the first place!  The issue here is cockroaches.  They lay eggs
on the sides of cardboard, so if you do not want your boat infested with cucaracha, then you should not bring cardboard on board, so to speak.

So how do you bring some foods if you cannot bring it in their original container?  The answer is simple, you need to remove all foods from their cardboard, plastic, or other container and move them into a new one.  Or just choose not to bring those types of food or drink at all.

An example of this would be canned or plastic bottle soft drinks or beer.  Instead of having to store empty cans and bottles, or toss them overboard (shame on you) choose to buy a soft drink machine that fills a reusable cup or glass when you want your fizzy, sweet, sugar drink.  As for beer, you're on your own, we don't plan to have any on S/V Lynx.  We plan to give up both soft drinks and beer and switch to another healthier beverage to drink.


Reusable Containers

Let’s get back to disposing of the original box or plastic bag and switching to your own storage device.  What you want to have are reusable containers.  These can be glass or plastic because you are not going to dispose of them when they are empty, you are going to clean them out and reuse them again the next time you are in port provisioning.

You can use zip lock bags, though we recommend getting a thicker and longer lasting variety if you go that route.  We prefer hard sided storage that lasts much longer.  These can be sealable soft plastic containers, or hard plastic models.  Find ones that fit together and stack on each other and are sized to fit in your storage areas.  Stay away from round models, if possible, they just create more gaps.  Use labels you can change on the tops or sides (depending on the storage compartment).  When you do change a label, make sure to dispose of the old one properly!

Instead of some kind of plastic wrap, you can get shower cap style plastic tops that snap over bowls and are completely reusable.  Or just move the food out of the bowl or plate into a sealable, reusable container.

Bringing provisions on board

To cut down on trash (and bugs) we suggest a routine where you arrive on the dock with your newly purchase provisions, but don't take them onto your boat yet.  Take a bucket of fresh water and add in a small cap-full of bleach.  Then wash your fruits and vegetables before bringing them (and any cockroach eggs) on board.  Put any foods previously contained in cardboard into a sealable reusable container.  Pile the discarded cardboard together for recycling on shore.  Remove any foods, like cereal, that are in a plastic bag and put them into another sealable reusable container. 

Now we come to a problem; we're talking about foods stored under pressure or sealed to make them last longer.  Some of these foods can be transferred into a food sealing container where you use a food sealer machine to suck the air back out.  However, there are just some things that have to stay in their container to keep them fresh for a long time. 

While still on the dock take each jar or can, one at a time, and remove any paper labels.  Set these aside for the moment to be disposed of properly, on shore, later.  This is to avoid cockroach eggs again.  Now wash that can or glass item in your bucket.  Once you dry it off, mark the item with a permanent ink pen, showing what it contains (if you forget, look at that label you just set aside).  Do this one can or jar at a time so you do not forget what is in each one!  Once used, these containers must be kept in a trash bag and disposed of or recycled at your next port of call.

Unless the container is a can or glass jar under pressure or sealed, no plastic, paper, glass, or cardboard should be brought on board.  For example, if bread comes in plastic bag, remove the bag and put the bread I a long reusable and sealable container (they make specific ones for loaves of bread). 

When you are far out to sea, meaning not in a marina, port, or near a beach.  In that case, it is OK to toss the rinds or other scraps of fruits or vegetables overboard.  The reason you do not want to do this near shore is that no one wants to see your stuff floating around or washed up on the beach before it degrades.

If you do not use all of something, reseal the container (food sealing what is appropriate, since that will make it will last longer without air inside).  If you need to temporarily store something on a plate or bowl, just put on the shower cap style reusable wrap.  As your containers empty, just put them back in the place you keep them and mark your list to refill them later at the next provisioning.

If you follow these practices, you will bring on a minimum of containers needing to be disposed of or recycled later, with most of your foods being kept in reusable containers.  You will also benefit from avoiding cockroaches on board, which is no small thing. This is not a cure all for cockroaches, but why give them any added chance to get on board?

While on the subject, what about things like shampoo, or other items that come in plastic?  Buy reusable dispensers and pour the products into those, then recycle the original plastic on shore before you set sail.  We suggest you try to buy the kind that have the flat lids that allow you to stand them upside down.  Then, you can pour out the contents, stand it upside down for a few hours, and pour the remaining product into your reusable container.

Other items, like spare parts, new gadgets, or any other purchases that come in any kind of container, should be handled the same way as your food items.  Simply put, do not bring any cardboard or plastic on board.  Take the items out of their containers or packaging, label them in the new reusable container and store them that way. 

When you look at any item you are bringing on your boat, just ask, yourself, when I go to use this item, will I have trash left over?  If so, get rid of that trash, properly, before bringing it on board.  If you try to cut down on things that become trash you will have far less bags of trash stored on board that you must. eventually, ferry to store in your dinghy.

Be proactive, do not drown your boat (or worse, the ocean) in trash.


Food Sealers

What about food sealer systems?  Well, we are a fan of these.  They help keep food fresh for
much longer.  However, you should avoid using the plastic food sealing bags that are not reusable.  When possible, go with hard containers that can be reused over and over again, without creating plastic waste.  Even if you must use the plastic sealing bags, plan to wash and reuse these items.  To make them somewhat more reusable, cut the original bag a little longer than you need.  When you go to use the item stored in the bag, cut off a thin strip of the plastic at the top, just below the melted seal. 

That way, you may wash and reseal the same plastic sealing bag with your food sealing device.  The small strip you cut off becomes trash that you must store until you reach shore for proper disposal, which is why we prefer the hard sided food sealing containers… where there is no waste.  However, there are items that work better in the bags.  Just be aware that these bags must be disposed of properly, later. 

Some things can be put into reusable zip lock bags instead of being food sealed.  Things like liquid items that you can remove the air without a food sealer.   Just reuse those zip lock bags as many times as possible and then properly dispose of them later.

The moral of the story?  

Do not bring trash on board in the first place, when possible.  Dispose of that trash on shore, properly.  Any small amounts of trash that is unavoidable, store and dispose of properly later.  This should be easy if you have cut down most of the other trash that does not need to be on board in the first place.

Yeah, some of these suggestions are a minor hassle, but if we all do not start going the extra mile, then our planet will continue to be buried in trash.  We think it is worth our time… and everyone’s.

Oh, and the next time you see someone else’s trash, pick it up and dispose of it properly.  We all have to start making a difference.

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