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Antifoul is a protective paint layer applied to the bottom of a boat to protect the hull from marine growth. Antifouling not only keeps the hull clean, it can improve fuel efficiency and helps to prevent the spread of non-native species.


However, antifoul paints work by releasing biocides (pesticides), thus preventing organisms from attaching, but this hazardous mix also leaches into the water. Most compounds are now copper or zinc based. Any build-up of these toxic metals can destroy the biochemistry, behaviour, reproduction, and growth in marine life.


The slow leaching can also cause toxins to accumulate in the food chain; but the main problems occur when a high concentration of antifoul enters the water in run-off from high pressure hosing and scrapings from the boat wash down when re-applying antifoul. This forms concentrated deposits in the sediments around marinas and in the river beds, which can drastically damage and alter marine habitats.


The discharge of concentrated antifoul into the environment is regulated through trade effluent. A trade effluent is any liquid waste discharged into sewers from a business or industrial process. This is anything other than domestic sewage or uncontaminated surface water. The discharge of trade effluent to the public sewer is specifically governed by the Water Industry Act 1991. If you wish to discharge trade effluent into a public sewer you are required by law to obtain trade effluent consent from the Sewerage Undertaker responsible for the upkeep of the public sewer (normally the water supplier in your area). The discharge of trade effluent without consent is an offence and you may be subject to legal action if you do so. Trade effluent MUST NOT be discharged to a surface water drain, as it will then discharge directly to the environment without treatment.


Antifouling products legislation has been developed across several countries to control the use and marketing of antifouling paints in order to protect human health and the environment. The type of anti-foul products available in the UK (sold, supplied, stored and used) are regulated under legislation called the Control Of Pesticides Regulations 1986 as well as the Chemicals Regulations and the Biocidal Products Directive.


You must ensure your facilities meet legal requirements by:

  • Contacting your water supplier/sewage undertaker to understand the drainage system at your site and discuss whether your facilities need permitting. You may want to create a site drainage plan and mark the different drains by painting surface water drains blue and foul sewer drains red.
  • If suitable, apply and maintain Trade Effluent Consent by completing a Trade Effluent Notice (also known as a G/O2 form).
  • If your facilities do not qualify for a permit you must halt operations until your site has been adapted. This may include installing a suitable wash-down facility that captures the run-off separately.

Promote good practice by:

  • Providing facilities for antifoul to be suitably applied in an environmentally conscious manner. This may include a separate closed loop wash down facility, a ‘scrub-off’ facility, tarpaulin to cover the ground and drain covers, suitable waste facilities to dispose of the paints and brushes etc. , and providing / loaning equipment like a dustless vacuum sander.
  • Raising awareness of best practice amongst members and customers by displaying the ‘Protect Collect Dispose’ Poster and request a batch of the Protect, Collect and Dispose Antifoul Best Practice leaflets using our online Resource Request Form.

Additional Information:


For further information on Trade Effluents contact…

To find out more on antifouling check out this video from the Safe Antifouling Initiative.

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Protect, Collect and Dispose

Protect, Collect and Dispose

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