Handling trash at sea


The trash compactor.


Innocent looking bales of trash in a freezer container.

Handling trash at sea onboard this ship takes a little homework.  This current trip is 45 days and being that we are in the hot South Pacific we need a plan.  On top of that, being a research vessel and being “green”, we take things even further (cough cough).  Basically the only thing that goes overboard is ground up food waste.  The trash is all collected daily, compacted into bales and rolled up to one of the forward decks were we have a refrigerated shipping container to hold the bales.  All cardboard is recycled. All aerosol cans are saved for later disposal.  All pop cans are recycled, along with paper.  There are also storage areas for chemicals such as cleaners and lube oils, oily rags, used filters and fluorescent tubes but also for chemicals that the science party may bring for their projects.  We save all wood, dunnage, pallets etc. as well.  So there you have it case you were wondering.
The bales of trash look awfully close to the bales of marijuana you always see the bad guys throwing overboard when being chased by a Coast Guard helicopter.  Who knows maybe they just didn’t want to get caught throwing out the garbage.  The penalty is probably worse.


4 thoughts on “Handling trash at sea

  1. Capt Jill

    Its great that you can recycle there. Every US ship (and all the foreign ones in the GOM) I’ve worked on in the last 15 years of so have had a ‘zero discharge policy”. Like you, only ground up food waste goes overboard.
    We do get to send our trash in on the supply boats that are working with us but with so many people coming and going, we really have a hard time making the recycling work. I’ve been working drillships lately with 150-250 people onboard. I’ve seen it tried on a few vessels I’ve worked on and it seems to work much better on the smaller ones.

  2. newenglandwaterman

    I wish they had returnables in Louisiana! We go through enough bottles of water to build another mud boat out of. They are currently retrofitting the boats with the food grinders and I can not wait for the smell of the leftovers baking in the sun when someone forgets to wash it out after use.

    1. towertodd Post author

      Part of this ships green initiative was doing away with plastic bottles of water. We now have a huge supply of plastic cups that get continuously reused.

  3. paulb

    That makes a lot more sense than having thousands of empty bottles rattling around the compactor. There’s still a big place for having scuttlebutts on board if you’re trying to minimize your waste stream.
    On the steam tanker I used to work on, we’d chain a pair of 55gal drums to the rails over the stern, fill em up with plastic, poke a few air holes with the ol’ fire ax and light ’em on fire. Next morning, there’d be a 10lb plug of ash and slag, which could be bagged and sent ashore. 25 guys on board a tanker, and we only had to take out the trash once every 90 days. Easy on the back, not so much on the environment.


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