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Top 10 tips for reducing plastic waste afloat

The recent Blue Planet II series highlighted the alarming amount of plastic found in our oceans and consequently in the animals that live there. Sadly our inland waterways are also affected by plastic waste – and a staggering 80 per cent of marine debris comes from inland sources.

With this in mind, and to help plan ahead for your next canal boat holiday, we’ve put together a list of super easy ways to reduce the plastic waste you might generate on a narrowboat holiday and the amount entering our waterways:

  1. Avoid products with microbeads. Much of the plastic polluting our waterways and oceans is microplastics which derive from bigger items breaking down, but also from products like face wash and toothpaste. Try to avoid using cosmetics with ‘polypropylene’ or ‘polyethylene’ on the ingredients list and go for natural biodegradable alternatives.
  2. Bring a refillable thermos. If you stop off to buy a coffee somewhere on your canal barge holiday you won’t need a disposable cup, for which there are limited recycling centres.
  3. Reduce your use of plastic bottles. You will need to have bottled drinking water on board your boat (though you can use water from the boat’s tank to boil and make a cup of tea), so we suggest bringing one large bottle or canteen, decanting it into reusable cups and topping up at water points.
  4. Bring your own shopping bags. Remember to pack your re-useable bags every time you shop and avoid products with excess packaging.
  5. Separate your recyclables and make use of recycling facilities. Most canalside rubbish compounds only accept boaters’ bagged domestic rubbish, but there are an increasing number of boaters’ recycling points and many of our canal boat hire bases have recycling bins too.
  6. Bag all rubbish. Make sure the bags are tied securely so that they can’t spill open. Only dispose of your bagged domestic rubbish inside bins marked domestic waste and don’t forget to close the lid.
  7. Don’t dump it! If the bins are full, keep your rubbish securely on board until the next available waste disposal point.
  8. Avoid leaving bagged rubbish next to a litter bin. It’s not a collection point for boater’s rubbish and can be an invitation for animals to break into the bags looking for something to eat, spreading litter everywhere.
  9. Help clean up. Join one of the many Plastic Patrol or Canal & River Trust Towpath Taskforce events taking place across the country.
  10. Every little helps. If you don’t fancy taking part in an organised event, why not pledge to pick up and dispose of at least one piece of canalside litter a day while on your narrowboat holiday?
Hope these tips are helpful. Let's help keep our waterways clean for everyone to enjoy.