Section 2: Waste Reduction, Disposal and Recycling

The day-to-day activities of marina patrons and the marina itself can generate substantial amounts of solid waste. A few examples include bottles (plastic and glass), cans, plastic bags, paper bags, food containers, food waste, cigarette filters, fishing line, and polystyrene bait containers. Improperly discarded waste can injure or kill wildlife, can be costly to boaters, is an eyesore, and can potentially harm patrons. For example, plastic bags and fishing line can snare boat propellers and clog engine intake systems. Broken glass or fishing lures can cut or puncture the feet of swimmers.

Solid waste management can help keep the environment free of debris and helps keep your marina a pleasing place to be. By reducing waste in the first place and by providing sufficient waste receptacles, much of this waste can be kept out of the marina’s basin or adjacent waterways.

Whenever possible, divert recyclable materials out of the waste stream. A recycling program is an easy, highly visible means to demonstrate environmental stewardship. Recycling programs are also a good way to introduce patrons to pollution prevention practices. In fact, many of your patrons are likely to already be in the habit of recycling at home and may expect to see recycling bins at the marina. The added cost of providing recycling facilities may be offset by income derived from the sale of certain high-quality recyclable items, such as lead batteries, aluminum, and cardboard. Also, you may realize cost savings due to less frequent tipping of your dumpster(s) because of the reduced volume of trash.

Learning Objectives 

By the end of this section, you should be able to:

  • Implement purchasing protocols to reduce waste and utilize environmentally friendly products.
  • Provide a variety of waste collection services (receptacles, litter cleanup).
  • Understand how to set up recycling for antifreeze, used oil, oil filters, solvents, lead acid batteries, plastic films such as shrink-wrap or bags, and used fishing line.

Best Management Practices


Reduce Waste

In addition to the suggestions offered throughout this Classroom, consider the following recommendations to further reduce waste. Keep in mind that less waste means lower disposal costs.

  • Take steps to reduce waste. Regional Best Management Practice
  • Avoid having leftover materials by sizing up a job, evaluating what your actual needs are, and buying just enough products for the job. Encourage boaters to do the same. Regional Best Management Practice
  • Minimize office waste by making double-sided copies, use scrap paper for notes and messages, reuse polystyrene peanuts or give them to small-scale packing and shipping companies that will reuse them. Regional Best Management Practice
  • Purchase recycled office paper.
  • Discourage the use of plastic and Styrofoam cups, food containers, utensils, and other non-biodegradable products. Regional Best Management Practice
  • Encourage boaters to exchange excess paints, thinners, and varnishes. To facilitate this type of activity, provide a bulletin board where boaters can post notices that they are seeking particular materials or have an excess of materials.
  • Post the names of local organizations (like schools or theater groups) that are willing to accept excess, nontoxic paints.
  • Request alternative packing material from vendors, such as paper, potato starch peanuts, and popcorn. Regional Best Management Practice

Manage Waste and Recyclables

  • Prohibit all dumping of waste in the water. Regional Best Management Practice
  • Follow state law and local ordinances for waste disposal and recycling. Regional Best Management Practice
  • Develop a waste management strategy based on the needs of patrons, number of patrons, the types of waste generated, the layout of your marina, and the amount of staff time you can devote. Ask boaters specifically what their needs are.
  • Promote your image as a responsible business by providing adequate and reasonably attractive trash and recycling receptacles (cans, bins, and dumpsters).
  • Provide both trash and recycling receptacles that are covered, well-labeled, conveniently located and maintained on a daily basis. Regional Best Management Practice
  • Place receptacles at high-traffic areas, such as the landside foot of the dock, near bathrooms and showers, alongside vending machines, adjacent to the marina office or on the path to the parking lot. Trash and recycling receptacles should be paired so that patrons can conveniently segregate their waste in one location and increase the chances of them doing it correctly.
  • Composting or anaerobic digestion of organic wastes is increasingly becoming commonplace and cost effective. Marinas may consider composting fish, food and yard waste. Contact your local solid waste management district, recycling coordinator or your state environmental agency for a list of anaerobic digester facilities and organic haulers available in your area.
  • Do not place trash or recycling containers on docks, as waste may inadvertently be tossed or blown into the water.
  • Select containers that are large enough to hold the expected volume of trash or recyclables. On average, 4 to 6 gallons of reception capacity is needed per person per vessel per day. A cubic yard of dumpster space holds 216 gallons of trash.
  • Provide lids or some other means to trap the waste inside and to prevent animals and rainwater from entering receptacles. Proper selection of lids for recycling bins is one of the most effective means of keeping recyclables separate from trash.
  • Require employees to be involved in policing the marina grounds, waters and shoreline for trash and litter. Do not allow litter to accumulate on your grounds or nearshore areas. Regional Best Management Practice
  • Use a pool skimmer to collect floating debris that collects along bulkheads or elsewhere within your marina.
  • Provide lights around trash receptacles so that they are easy to find and safe at night.
  • Plant or construct a windscreen around the dumpster to make the area more attractive and to prevent trash from blowing away. Use native plants to develop natural windbreaks.
  • Clearly mark each container so people know what may and may not be put in it. Refer to sample signs at Resources and Tools: Sample Signage. Signs related to waste management are explained in Section 3: Working With Boaters on Waste Management.

Recycle Solid Waste

  • Contact a waste hauler or your local solid waste coordinator to enroll in available recycling programs. The following are commonly recycled materials: glass, plastic containers labeled #1 & #2, aluminum, steel or tin cans, newspaper, corrugated cardboard, mixed paper, and scrap metal. Regional Best Management Practice
  • Provide containers to collect, at a minimum, plastic, glass, aluminum, and paper.
  • Make the recycling bins look different from the standard trash cans, e.g., use a different color or material and clearly mark as recycling receptacles.
  • See the Boat Maintenance Unit: Section 3: Handling Chemicals and Hazardous Substances, “Battery Storage and Disposal” for information on how to collect and recycle lead acid batteries.
  • Recycle used shrink-wrap covers. Work with your Clean Marina program or other waste management provider to offer shrink-wrap recycling. See: Michigan Shrink-wrap Recycling Program; Ohio Shrink-wrap Recycling ProgramRegional Best Management Practice
  • Promote collection or recycling of used fishing line. Some of today’s advanced fishing lines take a long time to break down in the environment. Waterfowl may become tangled in discarded line, often resulting in injury or death. See: BoatU.S. Foundation Reel in and Recycle Monofilament Recycling Program, Michigan Monofilament Recycling ProgramRegional Best Management Practice
  • If you do not provide recycling facilities direct your patrons to the nearest recycling facility. Regional Best Management Practice

 Collect and Recycle Liquid Wastes

  • Promote recycling of liquid waste (e.g., used oil, antifreeze, solvents). Regional Best Management Practice
  • Provide separate containers to collect used oil and antifreeze. Also, collect solvents from your boatyard according to hazardous waste regulations.

See Section 1: Hazardous Wastes, “Managed Used Oil and Filters” of this unit for information on how to collect and dispose of used oil.

See Boat Maintenance Unit, Section 2: General Maintenance, “Winterize Safely” for information on how to collect and dispose of antifreeze. 

See Boat Maintenance Unit, Section 3: Handling Chemicals and Hazardous Substances, “Handle Solvents Carefully” for information on solvent usage.

CHECK WITH YOUR RECYCLING COMPANY BEFORE MIXING ANY MATERIALS. You, your staff and boaters will need to know what materials may or may not be mixed. Ask if engine oil, transmission fluid, hydraulic fluid, and gear oil may all be placed in a waste oil container. Some companies will also take diesel and kerosene. Ask if ethylene glycol and propylene glycol antifreeze need to be collected separately.

  • Post signs indicating what may and may not be placed in each collection tank/container.
  • Do not allow patrons to pour their own gasoline, solvents, paint, varnishes, or pesticides into the oil or antifreeze recycling containers. The introduction of these materials could create a hazardous waste and the entire tank may have to be disposed of as hazardous waste: a very expensive undertaking.
  • Consider locking the intake to oil and antifreeze recycling containers to prevent contamination. If you do lock the tanks, instruct your patrons to get the key from the appropriate staff person or to leave their oil or antifreeze next to the collection tank. Assign a member of your staff to inspect the collection site daily for any material that may have been dropped off.
  • Be aware that recycling liquid materials is a long-term obligation. Investigate waste haulers to ensure that they actually recycle the collected material. Maintain shipping manifests for solvents and other hazardous wastes for a minimum of three years. Manifests are not required for used oil and antifreeze that is being recycled.

Follow Recommended Disposal Methods

  • Ensure staff and boaters are aware of recommended waste disposal methods for wastes typically found at marinas. See these resources:

Michigan: Recommended Disposal Methods table.
Wisconsin: The table on pages 11–13 of the Wisconsin Clean Marina Guidebook: Waste Containment and Disposal Chapter.

Next: Section 3: Working with Boaters on Waste Management