Ocean Plastic: Choices for Cruising Yachties

(Pre-Covid19, this article was scheduled for publication in
Opua Yacht Club’s ‘Tell Tales’ : April 2020 issue.) 

The challenge of plastic in our oceans is confronting.  It’d be hard to find a beach anywhere in the world these days free of plastic flotsam so perhaps we as yachties can be part of the solution?  What if we set an example wherever we travel through a low-packaging lifestyle to lower our own impact?

in 2019 I joined my brother to cruise around northern Fiji and share the passage to New Zealand.  As a one-time yacht owner and offshore passage-maker I chose to chat with fellow cruisers about how they view their own ‘waste footprint’.  People expressed concern about the quantity of plastic waste they took ashore for disposal, yet seemed doubtful they could do things differently:

“There’s no choice when you are cruising, things need to be wrapped in plastic to make them last,” one explains.  Another well-travelled individual is certain that, “You can’t avoid buying bottled water, local water is not safe to drink,” while others seem certain, “We are not the problem, you should see what others do!”  

By 2030, it is predicted there will be more plastic in the sea than fish. Globally, only 9% of plastic is recycled the rest is buried in the earth, burnt or blows, falls or is tipped into the sea. For small island Pacific states and nations favoured by cruisers, chances for effective recycling are even less than they are here in NZ. Dispersed populations, vast distances to recycling plants and lack of waste collection infrastructure exacerbate issues.   I see the choice as simple, ‘Do we yachtspeople continue to ignore and add to the problem or will we role model new behaviours for others to follow?’   But first, a story from my time in Fiji to remind us that the effect of our choices may be less clear than we think.

I’m standing in the shade at the start of a coastal walk through the Bouma National Park in Taveuni Island, western Fiji.  Two women from neighbouring yachts have joined us and are handing out plastic-packaged, plastic-sticked lollipops to small children from the village. The yachtswomen beam at each other delighted at the reception of their gifts. The little girls seem happy too, smiling shyly as they unwrap this unexpected treasure and drop the plastic wrappings to float away in the offshore breeze. 

Whose responsibility is that plastic packaging now in the ocean?

Refuse Reduce Reuse Rot Recycle Landfill

 

I am certain most cruising yachtpeople desire to be known as trustworthy voyagers who respect and care for ocean ecosystems in which so many others also live and play.  An easy first step is to reduce the waste created from an onboard lifestyle. The ‘Waste Hierarchy’ triangle’ (illustrated) provides a simple guide for yacht owners and crew looking for solutions to minimise waste.   The most preferable action is at the top of the inverted hierarchy triangle, ‘Refuse’, so that’s a good place to start…

 

10 items you may ‘choose to refuse’ on board

REFUSE Replace with Comments
Storekeeper’s offer of a plastic bag Your own fold-up bag Keep a fold-up shopping bag in your pocket/handbag for unexpected purchases
Fruit and vegetables in plastic bags Your own drawstring net bags Make your own out of recycled net curtains or buy a pack.

Using your own reusable bags role models making plastic bags obsolete.

Wrapped meat on plastic trays Ask where the local butcher is. Take your own reusable plastic bags/containers or ask for it to be wrapped in paper.
Tea bags Loose tea in a pot or individual tea infuser Most tea bags are glued together with plastic adhesive.

 

my teapot
Cleaning products in plastic spray bottles Bicarbonate of soda Sodium bicarbonate is a natural deodoriser and degreaser
Plastic clothes pegs Wooden clothes pegs If they do get blown overboard, they will biodegrade.
Plastic or paper straws Carry your own reusable one or just use your mouth!
To drop cigarette butts on the ground/ in the ocean Carry a portable ashtray, a small screw-top tin or jar. 95% of cigarette butts are a form of plastic. Commonly found in stomachs of seabirds, marine mammals & fish.
cigarette butts 2
To buy plastic-wrapped sweets, plastic pens, instant noodles as gifts Pencils, metal pencil sharpeners, metal water bottles, local foods in re-usable bags. Consider whether your gift is sustainable and what message it role models.
Plastic wrapping around store-bought purchases Leave the packaging at the store when buying new equipment or electronics Take the opportunity to ask the store to request their suppliers switch to packaging-free or eco-friendly packaging

 

In this global world, what we do today on our own boat impacts fellow humans (including those yet unborn) and other species.  Years back a wise elder explained to me how, “we have 4 needs: ‘to Live, to Learn, to Love and to leave a Legacy. ‘”  If you die in a year’s time, how do you want to be remembered by others? As an indifferent abuser of  ocean ecosystems, who met your own needs at the expense of your peers? Or as someone who role modelled a low-impact low-waste lifestyle that many others saw and copied ?

Jane Banfield is a Paihia grandmother with a passion for the ocean.  Her first introduction to yachting was to marry the Kiwi yachtsman who 35 years ago happened upon the remote island school in Vanuatu where she was a volunteer teacher.  A keen kayaker, sailor and almost-daily swimmer, Jane is a self-styled ‘zero waste granny’ who has chosen a low impact packaging-free lifestyle and supports others in the Bay of Islands to do the same.              zerowastegranny@gmail.com

SHOWING UP AS A ZERO WASTE GRANNY IN 2020

“Zero Waste is such a special doorway”, I explained to anyone who engaged me in conversation about my lifestyle last year.  In mid-2016 when I chose to quit single-use plastic, motivated by the destruction I knew was happening in the oceans, I felt very scared. I worried that I’d miss out, make a fool of myself, become an outcast.  I couldn’t know that leaping out from the safe norm to that very different ‘zero waste’ lifestyle would 3 years later seem one of the most fulfilling choices I have ever made.  I have found zero waste to be a portal to new discoveries about my world, about other people and about myself, and as I discovered in Masters research interviews last year, other ‘zero wasters’  too discover this same doorway to greater choice and fulfilment.

More and more people I meet seem to be considering whether to go ‘plastic-free’, their first step in seriously reducing a personal ‘waste footprint’.   However, others express fear or sadness that reducing their own ‘waste footprint’ is irrelevant for they have seen levels of waste in S-E Asia, or realise manufacturers are not shouldering their share of responsibility, or understand that much of recycling is a ‘have’.  I’m aware of these issues too.  “We take along with us those who are ready for the journey,” says an African proverb.   Over this year I plan to document how I show up in the world as a ‘zero waste granny’ and why I continue to walk the talk.  For ‘those ready’, I want to share low impact practices and wider understandings that work for me today, as well as others I am yet to fully embrace. Meantime dear reader, do these new year’s resolutions for 2020 by Australian permaculture artist, Brenna Quinlan, challenge you into further practical behaviour shifts? They do me!  New Years resolutions

Continue reading “SHOWING UP AS A ZERO WASTE GRANNY IN 2020”

A BIKE RIDE FOR WASTEAID (with Grandpa Bear)

I’m a Zero Waste Granny so combining catching up with my grandsons, a cycling adventure and  Zero Waste seems obvious!  After time with my family in Vietnam, I’ll be cycling from Hanoi over the mountains to Luang Prabang in Laos, a distance of 750km, to catch up with more family members.

Ever worried about piles of waste in poorer communities around the world?   While volunteering in the Pacific and Central Africa,  I feel sad and powerless at the scale of the issue:  around 1 in 3 people globally don’t yet have decent waste management yet systems.

WasteAid’s work to change this, community by community, inspires me. I’ve made a choice to offset my air miles through a donation to  WasteAid and I’m hoping my cycling journey will raise awareness and funds to support this UK non-profit organisation.

  • From my research, I know that waste minimisation practices can be relatively simple to implement, improve the environment, create jobs and protect public health.  WasteAid has been helping people recycle their way out of poverty since 2015, sharing waste reduction know-how and skills with deprived communities that seek advice and support.
  • Plastic pollution in the marine environment scares me. WasteAid works with upstream and coastal communities to set up small recycling centres to keep plastic out of rivers and the oceans. 
  • I respect how WasteAid keeps things simple and relevant, maximising value to local communities, and ensuring local markets for any products made from recycled materials.
  • For me reusing organic waste is key. WasteAid shares skills in how to manage organic waste with local trainers so knowledge gets passed on from community to community.
  • I also respect the way WasteAid is focusing on low cost equipment.  In the viability of a recycling start-up in a deprived community, $10 makes a big difference. Simple plastics recycling kits can support people to clean up their environment and make some cash in the process.
  • I’ve chosen to help fund this inspiring work.  Pethaps this ride inspires friends and family to make a donation and spread news of WasteAid’s work? I hope so.

Already I’m hearing people I know now connecting with the work of WasteAid. It  w

warms the heart of this cycling Zero Waste Granny!

#whenwethrowitawaythereisnoaway

#togetherweareone