Garbage in the Water

The Topic

Anyone who has been to the beach knows that there is a lot of garbage floating around in our coastal waters and floating up on shore. Most of this garbage is making it’s way down to the water’s edge through street gutters and storm drains that drain directly into local creeks. However, a small percentage may still be originating from vessels

Why Should I Care?

Garbage in the water looks bad, and can cause problems for both wildlife that mistake it for food and eat it, and for boaters. A significant number of boaters have had cool-water intake valves clogged by plastic bags, causing engine overheating and expensive repairs. Others have had monofilament fishing line wrapped around their propeller, and others have seen enough trash in the water to be able to use it to follow the direction of the current flows!

The Law:

Under U.S. law, it is illegal to put any garbage into the water from a vessel that is on a lake, river, stream, or any coastal waters up to 3 miles offshore. In the Great Lakes, this no garbage law applies everywhere. As you venture further offshore, the law loosens a bit. The biggest thing to remember is that no matter where you are, NO plastic garbage should ever go into the water.

If you have a boat 26’ or over, you need to have a "MARPOL" placard prominently posted to remind your crew of those dumping restrictions. You can purchase this placard from most marine supply stores, including Boat US.

Under the same law, marinas are required to have adequate trash receiving capability for their normal customers. (The Marine Plastic Pollution Research and Control Act of 1997 is Title II of Public Law 100-200.)

What Can I Do?

Establish a policy on your boat that nothing goes overboard - even apple cores. Alert all guests and crew to this policy.

Make sure your garbage can is easily accessible on the boat, and on open boats, make sure it has a lid to keep light plastics from catching wind and flying away.

Post our bilingual "Stash Your Trash" poster at a waterfront business or boat facility. Distribute our brochure about the law to your local boating group. E-mail BoatUS by clicking here and they’ll mail you copies of the poster. To order the "Stash Your Trash" brochure, click here.


Did you know?....sea turtles love to eat jellyfish.  In their search for the clear colored, pulsing delicacy, they often eat clear plastic ice bags instead.

Courtesy of Boat US

Category: Day Cruising
Tags: Waste Disposal/Recycling