Waste & Recycling


Thousands of tonnes of rubbish enter our inland waters, waterways and coastal waters every year, and it is predicted that the amount entering the ocean will nearly triple by 2040. It is estimated that more than a million birds and mammals die every year from entanglement, or ingestion of plastics such as balloons and plastic bags.


Marine litter does not provide a suitable habitat or artificial reef for marine organisms, and most litter is not easily broken down and absorbed by the sea. Plastic litter can persist in the marine environment indefinitely, and even biodegradable waste like food can take years to fully break down. A small fraction of the many million tonnes of annual marine litter comes from recreational boating, but everyone has a responsibility to follow best practice and not make the situation worse.


Whilst onboard it is easy to accumulate a fair amount of waste and, unlike at home where you have your wheelie bin just outside, there is very little space to store it. Waste means all food, domestic and operational refuse produced on board (except sewage). This includes food wastes, paper products, rags, glass, metal, bottles, crockery and similar refuse from all vessels.



  • Avoid purchasing products with single use packaging.
  • Avoid working on your boat while it is on the water – waste could go into the water.
  • Avoid products that may contain microplastics e.g. some face/body scrubs, toothpastes, cosmetics and other cleaning products. One ingredient to look out for is ’polyethylene’.
  • Don’t throw anything over the side, including food. Orange peel can take up to 2 years to biodegrade in salt water.
  • Secure all items on board to prevent any from falling or being blown overboard.
  • Avoid applying stickers to parts of your boat, e.g. the hull, where they can be worn and peel off into the environment.



  • Reduce waste, avoid single use plastics, e.g. by refilling reusable water bottles and avoiding plastic packaging where possible.
  • Use starch-based rubbish bags which can be composted.


  • Reuse items where possible by donating your boat, equipment and clothing to other boaters, clubs or centres.


  • Recycle more – why not have a separate recycling bin on-board? Most marinas, clubs and harbours have recycling facilities to then dispose of this onshore. Alternatively, recycle items at home or take them to your local recycling centre.
  • Encourage your club, centre or marina to provide recycling facilities and go single-use plastic free.
  • Donate unwanted sail cloth and rope to those who are making alternative products from these items e.g. reusable bags, deck chairs, awnings etc.

Boat Recycling and Disposal

What to do with boats that have reached the end of their useful life has been an issue for many years, but there are an increasing number of options. See our page on End-of-Life Boats for more information and advice on what to do with your old boat.


  • Don’t contaminate general waste, recycling, hazardous waste and WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) disposal facilities with incorrect items. Check to find out what items can be disposed of in provided bins if not clearly labelled.
  • Ensure all paints, fuel and oil and any item contaminated with these such as paint brushes, gloves and oily rags are disposed of in hazardous waste bins.


How Degrading

Awareness Poster

Guidance on

Wildlife & Habitats

A grey seal in water

Guidance on

End-of Life-Boats

A selection of guides available from The Green Blue

Boat User

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