The art of reducing plastic (onboard)

It seems to be one of the topics every boatie or wanna-be-boatie faces rather sooner than later: How to reduce waste in general and plastic in particular on board? Not necessarily only because of our increasing love for the environment, but rather as a consequence of living in a limited space.

“Don´t take plastic and other packaging material on board but unpack your products and discharge on shore.” Or “Get a can press to reduce the size of the waste” – these are great tips for all of us cruising and living on board for some period of time. They address the challenge of the limited space where every bulky thing – such as plastic bottles – is inconvenient to store.

Reducing plastic is not only a question for eco-warriors, but also a matter of the limited space on board.
Reducing plastic is not only a question for eco-warriors, but also a matter of the limited space on board. This is a creative waste management tip posted in the FB group “Sailing and Cruising” / Crickett Nordhaus

What they do not touch though is the core of the problem: The amount of plastic itself. I am not talking about the plastic boxes, dishes or bags that are used regularly. The real question is how to deal with the single-use plastic such as plastic bags for the vegetables in the supermarket, the containers for oil or the plastic around or toothpaste?

To put it short: How to reduce this single-use plastic and how to re-use the plastic that´s out there as often as possible.

“What are some of your favourite things to do to eliminate single-use plastics on your board?”, the questions raised in some of the FB sailing groups obviously don´t only keep our minds busy, but also others. The concerns about the amount of plastic waste we create onboard are not limited to the environmental aspects. It is for practical reasons too. With limited space on a yacht – especially on a 26 ft yacht such as our Kahu -, every item not being used and inconvenient to store such as plastic bottles is a burden. Life on board certainly teaches you to get rid of all the unnecessary things. And it also teaches you how little is actually necessary.

So what to do? It comes down to these simple things in order to avoid single-use plastics:

  1. Take reusable bags made of cotton or recycled materials with you when you go shopping.
  2. Re-use bought (peanut butter, jelly, …) containers to store all your beans, rice, flour, sugar…
  3. Use silicone lids and tops instead of plastic wraps.
  4. Be a detective: Look at all the items that are single-use plastic on the boat (personal hygiene items, medicine, cleaning material, …) and then put them into three categories: 1. do without the item; 2. replace it or 3. make it yourself and store in glass or metal or reusable plastic containers.

– and these tips are also doable on a boat.

If you feel inspired, jump on board of S.V. Phoenix as I found more on the topic on Jon and Marie’s blog: (including recipes of how to make some of the personal hygiene and other products yourself. Cool stuff!)

The answers might not be particularly creative or new, but they definitely work and are something every one of us can do to help restore the abundance of our ocean.

Even though we already put lots of thoughts on how to reduce plastic, the tips gave us more food for thought. There´s always space for improvement, they say. As small and insignificant as the improvements might seem, they come in a ripple effect and once you start to make steps towards more conscious choices, you can´t stop the progress anymore. Or as the Instagrammer @5thingsclear puts it: