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Plastic-Free Zones in the Sailing Industry

Published on January 29th, 2020

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
I don’t do this often enough, but I bet most of us can say that, that being picking up trash. We walk by it, plenty of it, knowing no good will come from it, so it was with pleasure that my wife and I answered a recent call for action.

The call was to clean up a stretch of road into our community. We all saw the disarray from our cars, and the time was now to pull weeds and clear the litter, but it wasn’t until I spent half a day picking up cigarette butts to understand how screwed we are.

Is there a more blatant and careless act than flicking cigarette butts out the car window, along an incline road that flushes into San Diego Bay? And given how it was clearly a common act, given the amount, I’d trade all the re-usable bottles and non-plastic straws to halt these buttheads.

So at the risk of annoying those of you who get tired of hearing how far we are from making a dent in the environmental selfishness that surrounds us, here’s a report by Tyson Bottenus, Director of the Clean Regattas Program:

The oceans face a massive and growing threat from something we encounter every day: plastic. Roughly a garbage truck full of plastic is dumped into the oceans every minute, ending up in our local waterways, rivers, and marinas. Nearly 18 billion pounds every year.

It’s found in our salt, our honey, even our beer. Companies are choosing to create products out of a material that will last forever. And if you don’t like this future, brace yourselves, we face a tsunami of throwaway plastic. Four times more plastic will be produced between now and the middle of the century than has ever been produced in our entire history.

Almost a year ago, I remember reading on Scuttlebutt about whether straw bans will make a difference. As a community, I think we need to start thinking bigger and bolder about unique and creative ways to turn off the tap of cheap plastic altogether and create what are starting to be called “plastic-free zones” in our everyday lives to tackle the problem of plastic pollution.

When it comes to ending the reign of throwaway plastic, communities and consumers play a vital role in sparking action.

When we enact bans on single-use plastic such as straws, bags and dinnerware, we take the onus off of consumers to make responsible choices and put it on manufacturers and retailers to come up with “less environmentally selfish” choices for consumers instead (to borrow a phrase from the editor).

Already we’re starting to see plastic-free restaurants, plastic-free supermarket aisles, even plastic-free flights. You can book a plastic-free hotel room if you want. Why shouldn’t we start seeing this trend of “plastic-free zones” in the sailing community as well?

It starts with our individual boats and what we allow and don’t allow to be placed on them. Remind your crew to bring their own reusable water bottle. If they don’t have one, be a good captain and provide them with a spare onboard like you would a lifejacket or spray jacket.

Once you have your own boat accounted as a plastic-free zone think bigger and work to make your local sailing center or yacht club a plastic-free zone. Get your local regatta to become a Clean Regatta. Tell them to subscribe to Sailors for the Sea’s community of Green Boaters.

I foresee a future in which our sailing centers, our yacht clubs, our marinas, and all the way down to our sailboats themselves rid themselves of single-use plastic and become “plastic-free zones.” Please join me.

Contact Tyson at

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