When I started SUP Garbage Man, I did my best to repurpose what I owned and tried not to buy anything new. After all, I'm trying to raise awareness of single use items that end up in our waterways. Begrudgingly, I have had to buy a few things here and there but do my best to limit my purchases, but that is beside the point. Back to the milk crates. I knew the first thing I needed to conjure up was a receptacle for the trash I was planning to collect. I ended up choosing the illustrious and sturdy milk crate.
No, I did not steal my milk crates. I ended up with them after college. Roommates either left them when we all moved out or people left them at the house after parties...homework parties, clearly. Years later, they are an integral part of my trash-collecting operation. If you aren't lucky enough to have had milk crates fall into your lap you may have several other repurposing options laying around your house. You could use an old laundry basket or even a storage tub. However, if you must have a milk crate, keep an eye out when you are paddling. I’ve found about five floating in the river or sitting on shorelines in the past year. That said, I’m hoping your river is not as trash-filled as the one I live near so you may need to begrudgingly buy one from your local home improvement store.
Anyway, so why milk crates and not any other bin-like device? Well, there are a few reasons. First, milk crates are sturdy. I know they are sturdy because they are designed to transport several gallons of milk. Milk is heavy(ish). The fact that they are sturdy was important to me because I knew I would be hauling heavy amounts of trash. The second reason I chose a milk crate is that the openings along the sides and bottom would let any water drain out. While picking trash up on land, this really is not a feature you would want. If your trash collection device you use on land drained liquids out the sides and bottom you would likely end up with who-knows-what running down your leg. However, since I am pulling trash out of the water during my SUP Garbage Man efforts I knew most of everything would have some water in it. If my trash receptacle held that water, the bin would be heavier than necessary. And the last reason I chose to use the milk crate is that they are stable. This is a good thing when you are on a SUP collecting trash. Imagine the frustration of accidentally tipping over your bin of freshly-collected trash because the bin was top heavy. Oh the pain. This could happen because of a number of reasons like a boat wake, catching it with your paddle, etc.
Now, a milk crate will do the job without modification due to the points I made above. However, I did make a couple adjustments to make my life a bit easier.
Over a year later, the system is still working! The screen and shower curtain lining inside the crate keeps all of the small pieces from escaping. The handles are strong enough for the heavy loads and don't give me the grimy creeps.
If you are considering taking up waterborne trash picking, the milk crate is a great choice. If you choose to go with a different option, that is cool too. Just make sure there is a way for the water to drain out. Laundry baskets are a good option. If you don’t have a bin with holes already, you could easily drill a few holes or use a hammer and nail to punch a few holes in the bottom. If you do drill holes in something plastic, please be cognizant of the little pieces of plastic shavings. No matter what option you chose, I would recommend adding some additional screen or mesh material like I did so that smaller items stay inside. If space is an issue for where you store your gear when it is not in use, then I’d recommend some sort of collapsible bin or laundry basket.