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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. 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

If you are looking to recycle or dispose of your boat responsibly in the UK then there are a couple of options:

Boat Breakers in Gosport, Hampshire. They will salvage or collect your boat or dinghy, or you can deliver it to them yourself, to have parts                              recycled where possible with the remainder broken down and disposed of responsibly. You can obtain a free quote from their website.

Topper Love to Dream Programme: As part of this programme The International Topper Class Association (ITCA) are excepting unwanted Topper’s from owners, clubs and centres  to revitalise the hulls, add new rigging and send to sailing schools and clubs in Emerging Developed Nations.


  • 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.

Related Resources

How Degrading
Awareness Poster

Green Guide to
Coastal Boating

Green Guide to
Inland Boating

Boat User

Green Products
& Services

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