The Wild South

Southern Conundrum: Is It Okay to Toss Leftover Food Overboard?

What should you do with orange peels, sandwich scraps, and the like when you’re out on the boat? Our Wild South columnist weighs in

Photo: shutterstock

If you own a boat, or have a close friend with a boat, or spend much time on a boat, perhaps you’ve wondered whether you can throw food waste overboard. Or maybe you’ve chucked an orange peel or Goldfish cracker in the water without any thought at all. For many, it’s a common practice. They’re biodegradable, right? 

On my boat, the answer is a polite no.

Orange peels? No.

Apple cores? No.

Lime wedges? Leftover deviled eggs? Watermelon rinds? No, nope, and are you serious?

Why my hard stop to food-waste litter? A couple of reasons. For starters, a lot of that stuff takes a lot longer than you think to biodegrade. Experiments have shown that orange peels won’t break down for about six months. Pistachio shells will litter the beach for a couple of years. I couldn’t find any data on the hardiness of watermelon rinds and hard-boiled eggs, but the point still holds. I don’t want to stake out on a sandy sound-side beach and watch some half-eaten tomato slice decorated with your chomper marks bob by in the surf zone. Same for your peanut shells. Same for that soggy butt end of the hoagie you were too lazy to place in a trash bag.

And opining that you’re “just feeding the crabs” overlooks another issue with food waste. I’m no scientist, but I don’t think you’re doing a blue crab or croaker any favors by sneaking them food that really isn’t their food. 

There are a lot of folks who’ll claim I’m way overboard on this, but is it really that much trouble to stick that half-gnawed piece of celery back in the bag it came out of? With more and more of us out there on the water, there’s simply less and less reason to trash the place. 

Follow T. Edward Nickens on Instagram @enickens.