Waste Disposal and Recycling
One question hat has often vexed cruisers is what to do with the accumulated rubbish. If you are in a marina, it is one thing, but out at sea things tend to collect.
The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) adopted in 1973 and updated as Annex V on the 1st January 2013 stipulates that whether you are near shore or in the middle of the ocean, you should never dispose of anything overboard that is not entirely and quickly bio-degradable. First and foremost, plastic is the ocean world’s biggest scourge. Discharge of plastics is strictly prohibited. Yes, it can and will eventually break down into small particles. However, these as well as larger pieces are often mistaken for food by wildlife. Plastic is, of course, indigestible. The animals that eat it will starve with full bellies. A case in point is the juvenile Albatross. Their principal diet is small jellyfish. The parents collect the ‘jellyfish’, mistaking globs of plastic for the staple, and feed them to their young, filling their bellies. The young starve, and the species is in grave danger because of Man’s garbage.
A lot of people feel that bottled water tastes better than water from a local source. On a boat some think it a healthier option. Reusing / refilling plastic bottles is quite common. However, studies have shown that reusing the same plastic bottle is dangerous as after a while chemicals start to leach out of the plastic.
Bearing this in mind, there are alternatives. Nowadays you can purchase a personal water bottle with a built in water filter. If you are still worried about germs, boil the water first then fill your water bottle. It is also a good idea to fit a good water filter system between your tanks and tap.
Plastic Carrier Bags
Most countries now charge you for plastic carrier bags or have banned them. Canvas or string bags are a better alternative and they are also good for storing vegetables on board. If you have to use plastic bags then reuse them or better still use them for storing other used plastic containers, then when you reach land you can dispose of them properly.
As plastics must be stored on board while at sea, it is a good idea to make it more compact. Containers can be cut up (after having been cleaned), while plastic bottles can be crushed before screwing the cap back on. When you reach land you can then dispose of the waste plastic providing that country has the means of doing this responsibly.
Cans and Bottles
Invest in a small handheld can crusher. It is worth its weight in gold for reducing the size of waste for disposal. Always wash the cans out first either in sea water or after you have finished washing your dishes.
The same goes for bottles and jars always rinse them after use as this helps to eliminate odors. While coastal sailing I always wait until we reach land before disposing them but while out at deep sea I tend to toss them overboard, after I have filled them with sea water to help them sink, which I know is not the right thing to do but on a long voyage the noise of rattling bottles really gets to you and you have to do something.
Cardboard and Paper
Cardboard (particularly corrugated or fluted cardboard are well known to harbor pests. In fact, most seasoned cruisers dispose of all cardboard packaging prior to bringing supplies aboard their boat.
Provisions such as cereals are usually packaged in a bag inside an outer cardboard box. The bag makes an ideal storage container and can be kept closed once opened with a clothes-peg (clothespin in US). Where an inner bag is absent, simply decant the contents into a reusable plastic container.
Beer and soft drink cans are often stored loose in a suitable bilge compartment. However, make sure that they cannot rub against one another, as the thin tin may wear through. Bottles (wine, beer, liquor) can be inserted into old socks prior to storing.
Any paper and cardboard waste produced while at sea should be cut up and kept until you reach shore.
When offshore it is permissible to toss food waste overboard, it becomes food for birds and fishes. However, if you are within 12 NM of land (or in an anchorage) you must keep it and dispose of it ashore. A roll of biodegradable plastic bags is quite handy for this purpose.
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