On the Job

Handling Waste on Deck

1 April 2020 By Capt. Mx
Recycling bins ashore
Recycling bins ashore

Still pushing water, having enjoyed and excelled aboard square riggers, Whitbread Maxis, the world cup circuit when there were only 7 boats, America’s Cuppers, 12M, modern classics, real classics, salvage, racing, passage, refits, builds and more, for 38 years, 54 Atlantic crossings, 48 world championships, and a few stories more. I enjoy the serenity and clarity that a life between the blues offers, washed by wind and waves, where all that remains is the simple truth of all things, questions for all things technical, and acceptance of all things magic. 

So here we are on the water again and while the techie bits await, it’s time to discuss the nasty bits, the leftovers, the garbage and waste produced as we wally our way across our oceans. Nothing disappears, everything on the planet stays on the planet, and how we manage it is not only our job, but our duty — to the boat and the world we live in.

Simple things such as reducing volume are important, crushing cans and plastic bottles, for example, as well as breaking down cardboard boxes. These are all important, particularly on a yacht with reduced space for trash.  

Garbage is a concern for absolutely everyone. At any given marina, ask for a separation of waste where you can leave your trash. 

The next step is to prepare for trash separation: all plastics go together, while petroleum products are stored in secure containers or tanks. Glass, paper, cardboard, organic materials, aluminum, and other metallic waste all need to be considered and addressed. Modern rules and regulations address the correct storage of all these items and while perhaps only applicable to commercially registered ships, it stands to reason that private vessels, small or large, may also do well to consider better waste management practices. Clearly, organic waste may be fed to the fish. Whereas old-school advice says you can break bottles, rip aluminum cans apart, and toss tins overboard, we should also consider the wrapping and lining of all these items, perhaps paper or plastic, oftentimes with chemical colors advertising it to be a super cola or breakfast cereal, as everything affects everything.  

Knowing that it must all be managed, you will be more mindful of everything your crewmates consume and flick into a waste bin. Sit down, write out, and coordinate a comprehensive waste management program with your skipper, and also work together with your chief stewardess, chef, and engineer.

Begin the implementation while still on the dock prior to your departure, as it should become second nature to you, your crewmates, and perhaps even to your neighbors. Prior to departure, begin to coordinate with your marina, request dedicated bins for the different waste so that it does not simply go to a big pile in the middle of an island somewhere on either end of the ocean. 

Garbage is a concern for absolutely everyone. At any given marina, ask for a separation of waste where you can leave your trash. If they don’t have it, insist on it — speak to the local bar, your favorite restaurant, your dayworkers, the immigration dude. Make it an issue because it is already an issue; one we cannot afford to dismiss or hide in a bag or under a lid somewhere. We all live here, and we live what we provoke. 

We are now at a point of saturation in the sea and in the world where humans have produced almost as much garbage as there is open space, clean air, and water. We are at a point where everything we do matters. Better manage your waste for the benefit of all aboard, for all the fish in the seas, and for everything under the skies. The very idea of it will ensure that you produce less waste — reminding you to bring less aboard when loading provisions or when consuming aboard. 

This column originally ran in the April 2020 issue of Dockwalk.


More from Dockwalk