Managing Rubbish

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Cover a bowl, or pack a snack for your next adventure. 
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Managing Rubbish Disposal on Your Boat

Rubbish like needs to be stopped!

Much of the garbage generated in the developed and emerging countries of the world today is comprised of non-biodegradable plastics. Much too large a proportion of this is ending up in the sea where it remains in the marine environment for decades if not longer doing immeasurable harm. As we have chosen to spend our life on the sea we naturally don't want to contribute to this damage and do everything we can to have as little impact on the places we sail as possible.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average Australian generates around two tonnes of waste each year. That's a lot of garbage to deal with living on a boat. It's essential to come up with ways to reduce the amount of waste as much as possible and develop suitable techniques to store the unavoidable rubbish until it can be responsibly disposed of.

The three “R’s”  - Reduce ........ Reuse ......... Recycle


Look to purchase goods that stop or reduce waste being generated. The biggest single culprit is the excessive packaging found wrapped around everything these days purely for marketing purposes. Apparently a product sold in a box five times larger than the item itself supposedly appears to be better value and more attractive to consumers. It's very hard to avoid but try to choose products that have minimal packaging where possible.

Go local and visit small shops or markets where you'll find fresh fruits and veggies that are not wrapped in layers of paper or plastic. A bunch of bananas from a fmarket is far better than half a dozen individual pieces wrapped in ridiculous amounts of plastic. You'll find the non-refrigerated product will last longer too. Likewise shop at the local butcher instead of the supermarket. Many will cryovac package the meat for you. Yes it's still plastic but far better than getting it in cling wrapped polystyrene trays and then having to repackage it anyway.

Buy in bulk – When you buy in bulk you will find there is less packaging and less waste. Buying in bulk can also save you from going to the shops as often and being tempted to buy unnecessary items.
Wherever you shop – just remember to select the items that have the least packaging.  Of course, carry home what you buy in your own cloth bags – don't forget to always have a few handy.

Opt to prepare your own meals from fresh ingredients rather than pre-prepared, packaged options. You will also find you save money too. It's easy, once you develop break supermarket food habit.  
Packaging like this drives us Bananas
Bulk foods not only save the environment
but your sailing $ too.

Less Paper -You have been most likely offered electronic statements and accounts by your bank, insurance company, suppliers etc – opt for it! Choosing web-based billing over traditional paper is very convenient with easy access to online archive as long anywhere with internet access. Not only does it greatly reduce the amount of paper used unnecessarily but you then also don’t need a land based person overseeing all that snail mail when you're away sailing.

Books, Newspapers, Magazines & Product Catalogues are almost universally online now, Go paperless wherever possible. It's faster to browse items online, search for a specific product, define price range or filter by categories, tags, etc. Ebooks are also a great development for cruisers. Less paper equals less weight and less valuable storage space taken up. We have literally hundreds of books onboard in our tablets. However, we do still have a small number of print versions too. We wouldn't want to miss the fun of book swaps in marinas and with other cruisers. 

Soft drinks - These days almost all soft drinks (soda) comes in plastic bottles or cans. Unless you are only provisioning for a weekend trip, these take up a lot of storage space and add a considerable amount of unnecessary weight to your boat. Once consumed, they again present a storage challenge until you reach a location where they can be responsibly disposed off.  On Our Dreamtime we use a Soda Stream to make our own soft drink and mixesA bottle of base syrup makes many litres  resulting in much, much less plastic waste with the added benefit of being far more economical. Saving money is always a good thing when you're cruising.


Disposable items are great for convenience but they come at a cost to our environment. Bottled water has become one of the biggest contributors to environmental pollution world wide. Make sure you have re-usable water bottles for all on board. Fill these from your on board water supply and save yourself a lot of money while reducing your environmental footprint.  If you need to buy containerised water for any reason, purchase it in the larger containers and decant into your re-usable bottles. 
Re-using and re-purposing items is the second step and maybe the easiest one to a greener earth while once again, saving yourself money at the same time.  Let's see two ways we re-use.

Reusable Shopping Bags. While these may be slightly more expensive than the common plastic bags, they're a wonderful way to protect the environment. Cloth shopping bags can be found in almost every store today.

Plastic Containers. Some of the plastic boxes intended to be single-use packaging for foods such as butter are way too durable to just throw away in the rubbish bin. Why produce more rubbish when you can use them again to store leftovers in the fridge or keep fresh products in the freezer or to store engine spares or the like.

Personal Water Bottles by

Beer - If you're beer drinkers, cans are the better option. They weigh less and can be crushed down for storage after being enjoyed. A number of long term cruisers we know have home brew kits on board and successfully make their own tipple. Once again this produces far less waste and is a significant cost saving.

Wine - Wine in a bag casks provide the most space and weight efficient method on board. It is also the most economic. If you're like us and like  a bubbly or two at sundowners and choose to carry bottles they are best stored as low as possible in the boat due to their weight. We slip the bottles into the cut off arms and legs of baby romper suits we got from a charity shop to prevent rattling and breakage when stored. The empties are re-wrapped and put back from whence they came until we can dispose of them ashore in a recycling bin where possible.

Here is a list of other practical things you can do to recycle effectively:

  1. When recycling plastic bottles, make sure they are empty and remove lids
  2. Ensure that paper and cardboard is not spoiled with food, metals, glass or plastics before you recycle
  3. Recycle your newspapers
  4. Buy products that have minimal packaging
  5. Buy products that have recycled material in their packaging
  6. Buy recycled products such as toilet paper and printing paper

Separate your unavoidable waste and store what can be recycled separately to what can't. Then look for places to responsibly dispose of both.

Most marinas have re-cycling bins. In Australia many council waterfront parks also provide separate general rubbish and recycling bins which are often within easy reach of dinghy landing spots. Some supermarkets also provide convenient points for collection of clean waste for recycling. Seeing so much unnecessary packaging originates from supermarkets it's very appropriate to make use of these facilities. After we have bulk provisioned I happily return all the unwanted packaging to them whenever possible.

Composting On a boat there is little room for composting. Making up a bottle that you put scraps into with water does produce a high nutrient water for feeding herbs. However all of your food leftovers and other organic materials can be shredded and disposed of into airtight bottles and containers for disposal once ashore.
Worn out clothing can be reused as rags on the boat instead of paper towel. This is a great money and environment saving. Shop in your local charity shop. We are amazed at the quality and bargain prices you can buy a new wardrobe.

Bathroom Waste. We have a saying "Unless its been through you it doesn't go down the loo". So how do you dispose of the YUCKY paper waste. We use bio degradable seated nappy bags. All offensive material is placed in these little bags, tied and deposited into a larger bag for disposal once again onshore.

Even better, keep an eye out for these guys:
Recycled-content products are made from materials that would otherwise have been discarded. That means these products are made totally or partially from recycled material, such as aluminum cans or newspaper. Also, if a product is labeled “recycled content,” the material might have come from excess or damaged items generated during normal manufacturing processes – not collected through a local recycling program.

Post-consumer content is a material that has served its intended use and is being reused in a different product. “Post-consumer” also indicates that the material is not from the manufacturing process, but from a finished product that has already been used.

Recyclable products can be collected and remanufactured into new products after they’ve been used. These products do not necessarily contain recycled materials and only benefit the environment if people recycle them after use. You can also take this one step further and think about what products recycle better than others. For example, glass is an easy material to recycle that doesn’t downgrade. If you can, choose glass over plastic (which downgrades once recycled).

This is our top 10 Ways to Reduce Waste
  1. Avoid bottled water.
  2. Avoid individually wrapped items. Beware of double-packaging.
  3. Remove and recycle all excess packaging prior to going on board.
  4. Avoid single-use items and opt for reusable or refillable containers where possible.
  5. Wash and dry bottles and put back where they were originally stored until they can be responsibly disposed of. Our Motto If you can take it with you ..... you can bring it back
  6. Re-use food bottles for storing of preserved foods.
  7. Squash cans before storing for disposal or reuse for baking tins if suitable
  8. Purchase concentrate forms and buy in bulk
  9. Reduce Paper products.
  10. Use reusable shopping bags.



  1. ooh i think that the buying base syrup idea is rly creative!!
    one way i reduce waste is to bring my own lunchbox when i takeaway food!

    1. Yes anything we can do is great .... lunch box idea for takeaway is fantastic never thought of that ☝️ so many of those take away containers out their in the world. It would be great if the law was to in force recyclable paper containers instead ....


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