It’s not pretty. It’s not part of the dream. It’s garbage — and by “garbage,” I’m talking about food scraps, not just general trash.
So what do you do with garbage on a boat when you’re on a short trip, charter or coastal cruising? (Ocean passages, where you may be at sea or a month or more, will require some different techniques.)
Garbage has two main problems: it stinks, and it attracts bugs (and worse). In a warm climate, both happen very quickly.
Luckily, putting your garbage in an airtight container solves both problems. I usually have a wide-mouth jar that’s trash itself and I just put the garbage in it and keep the lid on tight. Peanut butter, mayonnaise and jelly jars are all great candidates. You can also use margarine and yogurt tubs, but the lids can be a little more prone to pop off.
If I don’t have a suitable jar or tub, I use an old Ziploc bag or perhaps an old bread wrapper — again, taken from the trash. The big thing is to make sure the bag doesn’t have any holes in it and that you can seal it up tightly. Sometimes with a Ziploc, “crud” will get into the zipper ridges and prevent the bag from staying sealed.
If the container isn’t airtight or comes open, the smell will probably be your first clue. Swarming bugs around it are another sure sign. Take care of the problem immediately — no matter how bad it smells — as it emphatically will not get better by itself. You do not want a stinky garbage mess to suddenly turn into a stinky garbage mess with a bug infestation. If you’ve had a problem, it can help to give a squirt of bug spray in the trash can after you’ve cleaned up any spill.
We always disposed of the “garbage jars” with the rest of our trash when we got to a town or anchorage with some sort of trash service.
Some people suggest throwing garbage overboard on the grounds the sea life will eat it or that it’s biodegradable. I don’t like to do that.
All you have to do is walk the beach anywhere that garbage is thrown in the water to see the result. Okay, you don’t see as much food as plastic, but a lot of that garbage does end up on shore or on the ocean bottom just offshore. Fruit peels, especially oranges, are usually prevalent. I remember snorkeling beautiful reefs in the BVI and finding banana peels. YUCK!
That just doubled my resolve not to throw food scraps in the water.