Better Trash Storage

If you’re looking at the picture and thinking that I’m about to suggest a trash compactor, you’re about half wrong.  I figure you already have a trash compactor on board: your feet.  I’ve written about compacting your trash before.

But even with crunching it down some, and leaving as much ashore before leaving, the reality is that you’re going to have a fair amount of trash if you’re out longer than just a weekend.

The first time we chartered, we had heard from friends that we’d be charged per bag of trash that we took ashore.  Being cheapskates, our solution was to take along a couple of 75-gallon monster trash bags (courtesy of a friend’s business).  And since we hadn’t previously thought much about trash compaction (or left anything on shore after provisioning) e pretty well filled two of those in the course of a week.  We learned about the challenges of storing and getting really big bags to the dumpster from that experience.  Never again would we try to use such big bags!

Well, we’ve gotten a lot better over the years and compact our trash to a fair extent.  But we still end up with a good-sized bag to find a place for.  Dana Sue Talkington just recently gave me a tip that really helps:  instead of putting all your smaller bags into a typical 40-gallon trash can liner, use trash compactor bags, which are about half the size (typically 18 gallons).  Said Dana:

Don’t know if this has already been posted, but if it hasn’t it’ll make your stinky trash problem go away when you are days from port! Use “trash compactor” bags…these bags won’t tear when they are full and they are scented! We put 2-4 FULL 13 gallon bags in each compactor bag before we tie it closed and look for a dumpster in port…and because they are scented we don’t worry about the smells that are brewing inside. We store our full bags in our anchor well locker.

I followed up with a few more questions.  They put their trash into the typical 13-gallon “tall kitchen” trash bags, then when those are full, cram them into the trash compactor bags.  She says that they put one in, then use their feet to crush it down.  When the next one is full, they do the same thing.  The trash compactor bags are made to take this type of “overstuffing” and won’t rip, so you can get several 13-gallon bags into one 18-gallon bag.

There are a couple of advantages to her system:

  • It’s a lot easier to find places to stow full 18-gallon bags on a boat than full 40-gallon bags.
  • Ditto for piling them into the dinghy to take ashore — or piling into a dock cart.
  • Greatly decreased chance of a bag splitting.

Most supermarkets carry trash compactor bags.  Opt for the thickest bags you can get — generally that’s the Husky bags shown at the top of this article, at 2-1/2 mil.  Most other brands aren’t quite as thick and thus you have to be a little more careful when cramming the other bags in.  If you can’t get heavy ones where you live, they are available on Amazon (US) for just over 50¢ a bag in boxes of 40.

Contractor-bagsAnother option that’s better than the typical 40-gallon trash bags but not quite as good as the trash compactor bags, are 42-gallon contractor clean-up bags.  They are typically even thicker — which is better — but the 42-gallon size makes them BIG to store and also to take to the dumpster (just try wrestling a heavy one over the side of the boat, into the dinghy, onto the dinghy dock and then to the dumpster).  The per-bag cost is about the same as the trash compactor bags and you can get them at any home improvement store, although not at most grocery stores.

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  • Susan Parker
    Posted at 04 October 2013 Reply

    Many of the Bahamian marinas have started charging double for the large bags or charging more for the second bag. One marina wanted $25 for a second bag.

  • Dave Skolnick (S/V Auspicious)
    Posted at 04 October 2013 Reply

    Hold on – 150 gal of trash in a week? Even for a vacation charter that is a lot! How many people did you have aboard? Just … golly.

    Living ashore with four people trash and recycling might have been 75 gal / week. Cruising inshore with two people we generate 20 – 30 gal / week. Well offshore when just about everything except plastic goes over the side we are well under 8 gal / week (admittedly I “pack” the trash, nesting yogurt containers and such to take up less room).

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