Sustainability & Conservation in Yachting » Sustainability » Tiptoe Through the Tulips on Trash Island

Tiptoe Through the Tulips on Trash Island

Glynne Fletcher3

We as humans have an impact on the environment! This is a fact that we cannot get away from. It doesn’t really matter if you believe the human race is responsible for global warming or not.

We need to take steps to stop using excessive resources and stop making such a mess. In the short term, we can try to minimize our footprint by making small changes, and in time these will become second nature, making it easier to become more environmentally friendly. It's also easier when it can save you money, time, and precious storage space on your boat.

What I’m talking about is bottled water. This is something that we don’t need to have in large stock onboard. I’m not saying we shouldn't have any onboard, as there may be the odd time when the water maker is out or the water system is being worked on and you’re stuck at anchor. It is a good idea to have some, but two bottles per crew member per day is an unnecessary waste of money and resources.

Recently I spent time working on boats in the Maldives where all drinking water must be delivered by agents on boats they’ve chartered, then carried onto the boat and stowed, only to be thrown away half-drunk to be burned. 

Maldives 3Garbage wating to be burned in the Maldives

I have also worked on a few boats where the crew had a filtered water outlet fitted to the water system where they could refill their own reusable bottles. A SodaStream can also be used to put bubbles into tap water to give it the effect of drinking Perrier or similar.

It does take a little bit of extra effort but after a short period it becomes second nature. You have to get the water tanks and pipes tested regularly. The water bottles need to be cleaned periodically using tablets that can be easily purchased, and it does require a little bit of effort from the crew to stop winging about not having Evian or Fiji and to get used to refilling a Brita water jug in the fridge.

It is however offset by the aforementioned time, money and effort spent getting 600 to 1000 bottles onboard for 10 crew. And that's not to mention the financial cost of shipping it out when the vessel is somewhere remote.

Maldives Water Bottles 600
With so much accumulated garbage, this site in the Maldives has become known as Trash Island

Guests may still 'require' bottles of premium water for the foreseeable future but this could be purchased in glass bottles instead of plastic - or you could offer owners and guests the environmental option of ‘chateau yacht’ water.

Where does all the garbage go?

As crew we do generate garbage, another fact we cannot get away from. I had the misfortune to spend time at a favourite anchorage, where during the summer months they come around and collect garbage. Out of season, however, we had to fend for ourselves.

The crew was instructed to rinse things like yoghurt pots and anything with food on it before disposing of it. We would then compress it as much as possible and store it for much longer than if we had daily collections. It felt as though we had less garbage and it allowed us to double the amount of garbage we could fit into one bag before passing it on to the shore agent. Investing in such a system would halve the cost of garbage collection as well as freeing up space onboard otherwise taken up by smelly rubbish.

Compressor 600If you find yourself having to keep trash for an extended period and having to ferry it ashore yourself it could also make your life a bit easier! Compacting garbage in this way also makes it easier to separate the different types needed for recycling ashore.

Plastic Straws & Twizzle Sticks

Why? Plastic straws and twizzle sticks are totally unnecessary and, quite rightly, a favourite gripe of the environmentalist lobby. It is possible to find biodegradable paper straws and wooden stirrers but, on a billion dollar yacht, the argument is that these are more like kids' party accessories. Nonetheless, they might be handy for a beach BBQ but not for everyday use onboard.

It's possible to purchase coloured glass straws, but these can break and risk putting thin slivers of glass on the deck. Another option is stainless steel straws that could have the vessel’s name or logo etched onto them. These require cleaning after use but will not be a hindrance to the environment. They could also be an attractive souvenir for guests to take with them, like the slippers and bathrobes that accidentally fall into suitcases.

As humans, we have a duty to look after the planet! If you had a party in your backyard you would clean up afterwards by picking up the garbage. You would leave it in a good condition, the same as you would leave the beach after a BBQ. The same applies to the rest of the planet, and we need to take action now to help the world get better, even if these steps are small to start with. Don’t be afraid to look for solutions and make suggestions to your head of department. In turn, HODs need to be able to approach the captains with their ideas. It needs to happen up and down the whole chain, from owner to crew. We need to tiptoe through the tulips.

About the Author

After leaving school and joining the army for just over 10 years, Glynne decided to travel the world as a PADI instructor. He then found himself in Antigua sharing accommodation with yacht crew and when he needed to travel home he caught a lift on a boat. He has been at sea for nearly 20 years and is a Chief Officer, recently qualifying  as a Maritime Lead Auditor.

*Images courtesy of Glynne Fletcher.

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