1500 Plastic Bottles Every Second

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Stews are the front line in minimizing waste on yachts, and one important facet of this is the disposal of beverage containers.

After years of schlepping cases of bottled water on board, stowing them, restocking refrigerators several times a day, and then disposing of untold numbers of empties, there is no doubt in my mind that beverage containers are a big part of the waste generated onboard.

Another problem with taking control of waste disposal is that many marinas do not provide recycling facilities for yachts. As Capt. Denise Fox pointed out in her recent Triton article concerning recycling facilities in marinas, often they are not in plain sight, so ask if they are available. [“To be eco-friendly, yacht crew have to think about it, and ask,” www.the-triton.com/node/6659.] Maybe if enough boats asked, more marinas would provide recycling facilities.

We have to work together as teams to gain control of this situation, and to do this we have to change the way we think. People in general are resistant to change, but crew in particular can be difficult to convince because different departments assume so much of each individual’s responsibility. Even if we know how to “do the right thing,” sometimes it does not get done.

One stew I worked with commented that this is pure laziness on the part of some crew, and she works diligently to help her team reform their habits. They admire her passion for recycling and as a result want to follow her example. She has done an amazing job of setting a system up and then consistently teaching her crew mates to maintain it. They have learned that with just a little bit more time and effort they can have a real impact on the environment and strengthen their team at the same time.

There are alternatives to bottled water for crew. Several stews I talked to said that crew member have his/her own nalgene or stainless steel bottle and it is their responsibility to refill it from pitchers of filtered water available to them. This has an enormous impact on cost as well as on the amount of trash that is generated. Often the water bill can be decreased by at least 50 percent, since now only guests will be provided with bottled water.

I recently received a letter expressing concern over the use of bottled water on yachts, and I have included some interesting info from it.

Dear Alene,
I just had to write because I am concerned about the use of bottled water on yachts. Bottled water is disastrous to the environment, it is more expensive than gasoline, and much of it is no better than tap water. In fact it can actually be more hazardous to our health than tap water.

Do you know there is a swath of garbage, mostly made of plastic, that is twice the size of the state of Texas that is floating in the Pacific Ocean? Am I the only one shocked by this?

According to the Earth Policy Institute (EPI), in 2004 there were 28 billion plastic water bottles used, of which a whopping 86 percent ended up as garbage. That’s 1,500 bottles every second ending up as garbage.

Those 28 billion plastic bottles require about 17 million barrels of oil to produce, enough to fuel about 100,000 cars for a year.

The production of those bottles creates an additional 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere.

But here is the item that really caught my attention, since so many boats store water outside in hatches where the temperature is usually well over 90 degrees:

When these bottles get warm they can leach cancer-causing chemicals into the water we drink. Even if we keep them cold, we don’t know what kind of heat they may have been through in the process of storage, transportation, and loading/unloading before we acquired them.

The letter goes on to provide information about one alternative to bottled water, a water ionizer that generates oxygenated drinking water that balances pH level and reduces free radicals in the body. It claims the ionizer can produce water with different pH levels that can disinfect, sterilize, and even emulsify oils, which would reduce the amount of cleaning supplies used and could certainly have a lot of applications in yachting.

There is really a lot that can be accomplished in regard to minimizing waste, finding solutions to the beverage container issue, and recycling in marinas. It all starts with convincing people to change their thinking and their habits.

Many stews have done an amazing job to increase awareness. By educating ourselves, setting up systems and maintaining and monitoring them, we could significantly cut down on the amount of waste generated daily.