Sign up & join the conversation.

Waste & Recycling


Thousands of tonnes of rubbish enter our inland waters, waterways and coastal waters every year. It is predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans in weight than there will be fish and 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 (OSPAR Commission).


Whilst onboard it is easy to accumulate a fair amount of refuse and, unlike at home where you have your wheelie bin just outside, there is very little space to store it. Sadly, the quantity of litter found in our oceans, seas and along our coasts is rising and this has a serious impact on the environment and wildlife.


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. A small fraction of the estimated 4 – 13 million tonnes of annual marine litter comes from recreational boating, but every sector has a responsibility to follow best practice.


Refuse means all food, domestic and operational wastes 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 micro-plastics e.g. face/body scrubs, toothpastes, cosmetics and other cleaning products. One ingredient to look out for and avoid 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.



  • Reduce waste by minimising what you purchase, do you really need lots of different sailing jackets or will one or two suffice?
  • Avoid single use items and those with unnecessary packaging where possible.
  • Instead of purchasing new items, obtain second hand items, rent, and share with fellow boaters.
  • Check out The Green Blue Business Directory for more sustainable products and services e.g. Clothing made from recycled plastic waste


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


  • Ensure waste bins are not contaminated with incorrect items, for general waste, recycling, hazardous waste and WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment). 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.


  • 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 to go single-use plastic free.
  • Use our UK Marine Environmental Facilities Map to find your nearest recycling facilities at UK marinas, harbours and boatyards.


If you are looking to recycle or dispose of your boat responsibly in the UK then here are a few options available:


You can contact the following companies who accept old sail cloth donations to make new items such as bags, washbags, pencil cases and deck chairs:

Related Resources

How Degrading
Awareness Poster

Green Guide to
Coastal Boating

Green Guide to
Inland Boating

Boat User

Green Products
& Services

Social Share Buttons and Icons powered by Ultimatelysocial