Position: 41°12’58.4″N 13°34’23.4″E

cucaracha

Like all things on Aleta, we try and right-size our waste management for the available space. Our ability to sail for weeks at a time and not look like a fully laden, seagull baiting scow was borne out of necessity and circumstance. Maintaining a liveable environment below decks requires keeping the amount of inorganic matter to a minimum while sensitively dealing with the organic waste. Then there’s the stuff that lies somewhere between those two bookends – like cardboard.

Cardboard, we learned the hard way, has no place on your boat. Particularly if you’re sailing the Caribbean. The glue that holds cardboard boxes together is regarded as especially delicious by those harbingers of Doomsday: cockroaches. There’s something about cockroaches that no matter where they turn up, your skeezy apartment, your friend’s glam condo, your dream boat, they quickly make you believe the end of the world is nigh. The scampering, scavenging, elusive little buggers will drive you to your wits end. And knowing they will survive a nuclear holocaust makes you feel your battle with them is hopeless.

Placebo

If you search online for solutions to roach infestation, most advisors start with helpful things like, “Never bring cardboard on board.” But by the time you’re elbow deep into finding a solution it’s already too late for that pointless sanctimony. All that blather is about as useful as homeopathic cures that lean heavily on the placebo effect. Roaches don’t care a fig about your placebos and will happily eat their way through your stores before you dock again.

Fortunately, there is a solution that doesn’t require scuttling your boat: poison. More specifically Advion (Indoxacarb). Used sparingly, cockroaches eat it and then share the deadly bounty with the rest of their nest mates. In a week there are no more cucarachas. As the poison takes effect, the roaches make their way drunkenly out of their hiding places and die dramatically in front of you. It’s not for the weak of stomach. However, for those triggered by rogue periplaneta americani there is a certain grim satisfaction to the process. Advion is not the kind of thing you throw around willy nilly. But we keep a spare syringe of the chemical cosh in case our anti-cardboard diligence falters and we get re-infested.

Rat Terrifier

That gruesome experience aside, we’ve avoided some of the worst effects of poor trash management. The very worst of which would be rats. We met a family in the Bahamas with an uninvited rat on board. A couple of the dreaded rodents had clambered up their dock lines, squeezed through a porthole and into their food lockers. The rats proceeded to gorge themselves on food, wiring and any rubber hoses they could find.

Out of desperation, they set their mess table with a ratty repast of sweets and meats all liberally laced with poison. They then left the boat for 24 hours to see what would happen. When they returned the rats had had a field day with their last supper and were never seen or heard from again. If you don’t want rats on your boat, my best advice is, get a dog. A rat terrifier is a good breed. Just ask Marlon.

With the consequences of too much rubbish still relatively fresh in our minds, we set sail across the Atlantic with four people, one dog and as much prepared food as we could muster. Wanting to minimize our environmental impact during the crossing we chose the perfect weather window so we could sail the entire way. We also made sure that anything non-biodegradable stayed inside. So thorough were our preparations, we filled only a trash bag and a half during the crossing.

Europe

spanish-dumpsters

Once in Europe things changed, a bit. More frequent marina stays and Covid made us lazier and more consuming (consumptive? – ed.). We did our best to maintain a sense of environmental accountability, something made easier by Europe’s recycling wokeness. During lockdown we devised a system for separating our detritus into the requisite categories of paper, metal, glass, and plastic using shopping bags stored under the companionway ladder. Once a week we’d take it all topsides and put paper and plastic into the marina’s yellow bins, glass in the green ones, and paper in the blue. That was in Spain where every other street corner has large colour coded skips for collecting recycling. Sometimes the skips lived below the street and were raised up for emptying. Most importantly it seemed to work. People dutifully separated their rubbish and then recycled it.

umido-recycling

As we moved around the process subtly changed. In Italy they added a new category of organic waste. There all produce is sold in biodegradable bags which are used later for disposing of your peelings and other wet garbage. The town gathers up the organic waste, composts it and offers it back as fertilizer to citizens who rent a small plot of municipal land for growing their own veggies. At last, the triangle of recycling has real meaning. In the scheme of things, Italy wins the prize for most the accessible and complete recycling schema in Europe. Greece’s recycling is more of a mishmash. Greek cats appreciate the open dumpster smorgasbord and happily fling rubbish everywhere in a four-metre radius.

After three years of avid recycling we became a little zealous. That is until we left the Latin latitudes and reached the Germanic north. Holland maintains a dense network of street-level recycling stations that is initially encouraging. Until you want to throw something away. For reasons I have yet to fathom all the public recycling stations we found required an RFID card to open them. There’s probably some vestigial Hanseatic efficiency associated with the locking up of Dutch wastebins, but I couldn’t figure it out. Had the Spanish or Italians attempted the same thing, their streets would be impassable.

Dutch streets are as neat as a pin. It seems the only people barred from responsibly disposing of their trash are itinerant foreigners. Perhaps there’s a fear that instead of dropping off rubbish, people will dive in and wallow around until they find something valuable. I ended up stuffing our bags into the rare open street bins sporting signs that say “No Household Rubbish”. Screw ‘em, I muttered! Get with the program!

Eurotrash

Here then is our Eurotrash scorecard by country:

eurotrash-scorecard

Now click here and listen to the song ‘Eurotrash Girl’ by Cracker, (which, frankly, has nothing to do with the rest of this blog).


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