Inquiring Minds Want to Know, How Do You Dispose of Garbage?

  Friday, February 22, 2013 / Stephanie / Uncategorized  

Have you thought about where your garbage goes after you toss it into the designated can? While I lived on land, I never gave it a second thought. If it was in the garbage can I knew the truck would pick it up on Wednesday and I would feel refreshed having another entire week to fill the can again. What happened beyond the truck...landfill, incinerator, recycling...didn't matter to me because my garbage can was empty. I'm going to guess that most Americans give the same amount of thought to their garbage and unless they are on a recycling spree they don't really ponder the end result once the truck pulls away from the driveway. (I'll admit even thinking about it for this post I haven't made any effort to research where landlubber garbage actually goes; although had read this article Recycling Is Garbage which although outdated was news to me. Thanks to Stuff that Matters for keeping my inquiring mind busy.) Enter life aboard a boat where now I not only have to think about where to put items that we need and/or want, but also have to think about how to stow and properly dispose of garbage. Outside of the states disposal of garbage is a bit different. We can't just throw everything in the designated can and take it ashore to throw into a larger designated can (at a marina or boat ramp or dumpster we spotted across a parking lot). Our locations have become more remote, not offering a garbage can at every stop. So what are our options from the water? Here I will caution my environmental friendly may not like the answer but I can assure you we are following suit with the nautical world. Garbage on Rode Trip is being separated into categories: plastics, paper/burnables, cans and glass, and food/compostables. These categories are stowed in four separate places so they are pre-sorted for disposal. My challenges for stowing four separate garbage cans are managing odor and managing clutter. Those of you who know my level of clean and organized will understand that I've had a fast turnaround for finding solutions to both issues, which I hope will continue to improve. Here is how we manage our four garbage categories. Plastics: As opposed to 'Plastics' that we all know and despise from the movie Mean Girls, our plastics are typically zip-lock bags (not washing them all...yet), food containers, wrapping from food and misc. items, and also styrofoam such as egg cartons and meat trays. Plastics are stowed away until we have an opportunity to dispose of them on land if we know that locals dispose of plastics responsibly. For instance, in many locations garbage cans and dumpsters from shore are loaded onto boats and dumped at sea. If we know this to be the local practice, we'll save our plastics for burning. As for recycling plastic, we do wash and reuse some juice and soda bottles. We make lemonade or put drinking water into the juice containers and we make ginger beer in the soda bottles. Paper/Burnables: We no longer get the Sunday paper, so our paper/burnables category actually takes the longest time to accumulate. This category consists of tissue, wipes, paper towels, and cardboard. This category may be burned, which we have done when we found a proper fire ring on a beach. This category may also be dumped into the ocean when in deep water far from shore (US Coast Guard regs in the states mandate 12-miles from shore). We have gotten into the habit of not bringing cardboard on board as it may bring bugs along with it. But sometimes, for instance cases of beer, bringing cardboard on Rode Trip cannot be avoided. These larger cardboard items we discard on land in garbage cans or dumpsters if available. Cans and Glass: We've tried making an old school VHF from our discarded aluminum cans, but running strings from boat to boat poses a safety risk for passers-through; things get tangled people in dinghies get clotheslined...not pretty. So instead aluminum cans are rinsed with salt water, then crushed and stowed. Glass is also rinsed and stowed. Both of these items are dumped into the ocean in deep water far from shore; they sink and the saltwater a.k.a. lava will deteriorate aluminum quickly. Also we'd like to keep the sea glass flowing for beachcombers. If able these items go into garbage cans or dumpsters when available. These items add to odors so a good rinsing is necessary and I'm still looking for an ideal stowage space as they accumulate quickly. Food/Compostables: Rode Trippers do eat nearly anything, but sometimes we have scraps from food preparation that we just can't stomach. This category includes anything that you'd think to compost such as egg shells, fruit and/or vegetable peels, coffee grounds, tea bags, etc. Unfortunately I cannot add these items to my composting toilet, yes the thought crossed my mind. And these items do add odors and quickly. So these items are set aside in a plastic storage container and whenever possible dumped overboard. These items become fish food and those that aren't eaten very quickly deteriorate in the saltwater a.k.a. lava. At unpopulated anchorages the food/compostables go overboard in the evening and the container is rinsed. At populated anchorages we wait until we are traveling to dump overboard as we wouldn't want to spoil a pretty anchorage with onions and carrot peels floating around. Not everyone is so polite and we have seen floating vegetables. That's the cycle of garbage aboard Rode Trip. Instead of Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. I'd like to think of it as Reduce. Reuse. Manage.


  1. From stephanie on Feb 22, 2013
    Glad to know we are on the right track with the garbage, quite a chore! Yes we have a composting toilet and we are VERY pleased with it. I have some pics in this June 27th post: It's an Air Head. My turnover for the solids bucket is about two months, it composts fast and no odors. But about two months is all the space we have and can no longer add peat moss to keep everything dry enough. It worked well for one month without a fan too and the company replaced our fan which stopped working. Air Head is out of Portland, ME. As for liquids, that fills in about two days and needs discreet dumping at times. No odor there either, just manage build-up with a bit of vinegar and salt water.

  2. From Dennis on Feb 22, 2013
    Pretty standard practice everywhere I have sailed. The plastics really are the worst though aren't they? I wish there were less products wrapped in the stuff! I didn't know you had a composting toilet, very smart for sailing in no discharge zones. How long between maintenance intervals? The big Sun Mar in our cottage goes all summer with weekend use. I have wondered about one on a cruising boat. I love this blog!