After reading the numerous plastic pollution posts on the Yacht Stew Tips Facebook page recently, the ever present feeling I have to do a lot more to reduce plastic waste on board resurfaced. While I care a great deal about the environment, I’m just as guilty as anyone when it comes to buying plastic items for convenience.
Plastic is a major issue for the environment. Ocean Crusaders says there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic floating in our Ocean. They also have other startling fact such as 1 million sea birds die from plastic and Americans consume 8.6 billion gallons of bottled water. I also read that we have no idea how long it takes for all of the plastic we consume that end up in the Ocean and landfills to fully break down.
Have you heard of the Great Garbage Patch floating in our Ocean? Read about it HERE
It’s heart breaking and yet there are certain things each of us can do in our daily lives and on board to take care of the health of the planet.
“We have no idea how long it takes for all of the plastic we consume that end up in the Ocean and landfills to fully break down”
Talk to your Captain about setting up a recycling program that works for your boat. Create the specifics of the program and hold a meeting/training about it. Ensure that everyone knows what to do and how important recycling is. Designate one crew member to be in charge of making sure the program is successful.
One way to start recycling is to have a “non-recyle” bin for usual trash and then one set up for plastic, paper and other recyclables.
You could designate the removal and proper distribution of the recycling to the watch keeper as part of their end of the night duties.
Make sure you know the rules of how and what to recycle in your area as it changes from place to place.
What to do if your port does not have a recycling bin
- Speak to Captain first and with his or her approval set up a meeting with your agent, dock master or designated person ashore. Work with them to help set up a recycling program.
- If the above mentioned cannot help, reach out to the nearest recycling center. Either they can provide a recycling bin or they can tell you where you can find one close by. If you must drive to the recycling bin, then potentially, this can be a bulk run done by one of the Crew members when they go out every few days.
NOTE: Recycling is the last resort to reducing plastic. Our first priority should be to stop using it and find alternatives.
A lot of boats buy water bottles still. If you’re not lucky enough to have a silver sterilizer on board, then you may be able to get an external filter. First, ask the Chief Engineer how the water is filtered on board. If no one is sure if it’s potable, buy a water test kit and check it yourself.
Otherwise if you must buy an external filter, try to get one under the sink in the Crew Mess and Galley with a second tap. Work with your Engineer on what will work best for the boat.
Re-usable plastic water bottles are a better option to one time use plastic, still they become worn after a short time. Instead I prefer using a glass bottle with a rubber sleeve which prevents the bottle from breaking.
Glass reusable Water Bottle
Re-usable shopping bags and Produce bags
Many countries are now not giving out shopping bags at check out free of charge. It is easy to build up a collection of long lasting shopping bags. Just remember to put them back in the Crew car or somewhere you won’t forget them after unpacking the groceries.
Re-usable produce bags are great alternatives to the plastic ones found on the roll in the produce sections.
Re-usable produce bags
Most boats use Tupperware of some kind. This is a fantastic alternative to Ziplocks, still the Tupperware tend to wear eventually after being stained by food and multiple dishwasher runs. A great alternative to plastic Tupperware is glass or stainless steel. Many companies make very durable glass Tupperware with lids that can go in the oven, microwave and dishwasher. While the lids are plastic, the base will last for many years.
Stainless Steel Tupperware
Ziplocks (plastic sealable bags)
I find not using ziplocks to be quite tricky on board. They are so convenient (like all plastic!) and they don’t take up much room like Tupperware. Still, we have a major problem with Ziplocks sitting in our landfills and Oceans polluting every part of life.
Some alternative to Ziplocks are re-usable sandwich bags, stainless steel containers, muslin wrap and glass Tupperware.
If you must use Ziplocks, wash them out with soap and water and re-use them. Get organized and designate one location for clean but used ziplock that has had various food in them and ones that have not.
Re-suable sandwich bags
Plastic one- use straws are easy to replace. There are so many alternatives out there such as multiple use metal, glass and if necessary multi-use plastic or silicone straws.
Bio-degradable & Compostable Plastic
Bio-degradable and compostable plastics are an alternative to regular plastic. The theory behind them is excellent. I have also read, however, that they must be disposed of properly in order to break down fully. For example, biodegradable plastics may not breakdown thoroughly in a landfill because of how tightly packed landfills are/
Because we don’t always have the means to compost and dispose of biodegradable plastics on board a boat, the better option is to use another alternative.
Watch the video below on why biodegradable plastics do not work
- Take your own re-usable coffee cup to coffee shops
- Reduce plastics in your personal life. Look for brands with recycled plastic and/or do not use plastic at all
- Buy food products in bulk rather than individually wrapped
- Bring a re-usable container to the restaurant for takeaway food
How do you reduce plastic on board?