The charity making life better by water

Rubbish and recycling

You'll find hundreds of waterside waste disposal facilities for waterway users, some with recycling facilities, along our canals and rivers.

Recycling bins for boaters use in Little Venice, London

Find your nearest recycling facilities when you're out and about with www.recyclenow.com. Simply pop in your postcode and it will tell you all about the facilities in your area.

If you've a smartphone you can download plenty of apps, which can point you in the direction of your nearest facilities. Try searching for 'Find Recycling' in your apps store.

How to find rubbish bins on our waterways

There are a growing number of recycling points, but you can find all our waste facilities by zooming into your location on the map below. Click the red i icon on the bottom right to bring up the icons key.

You can also find details of local boating services on our Local to You pages.

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Disposing of your rubbish

  • Store domestic rubbish securely onboard so that it can't be blown or knocked off into the water or onto the towpath. This is particularly true for empty solid fuel bags which frequently foul lock gate paddles and boat propellers.
  • Bag all rubbish and ensure 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 bin's lid after use. If bin compounds are accessed using one of our keys, don't forget to lock up when you've finished, as it helps prevent fly-tipping.
  • Don't dump it! If the bins are full don't leave your rubbish on the floor. Carry it with you on your journey to the next available waste disposal point.
  • Never dispose of your domestic rubbish in litter bins as they are not there for that purpose.
  • Don't leave your bagged rubbish next to a litter bin either, as it's not a collection point for boaters' rubbish. Leaving bags next to a bin is also an invitation for animals to break into the bags looking for something to eat, spreading litter everywhere.
  • Recycle and reuse as much as you can.
  • Try to avoid buying goods with excessive plastic packaging and look for other ways to reduce the amount of plastic you use.
Plastic rubbish caught in a weir on the canal

Choose your fender wisely

While natural rope fenders are available, most boats tend to have fenders made out of plastic, whether it's a balloon, pipe, cylindrical shape, corner, chubby, anchor or buoy. At a recent lock stoppage, the boating team were amazed to count so many lost plastic pipe fenders lurking in the bottom of the lock.

A simple way to prevent your fenders adding to the plastic in the canal is to make sure you don't have them dangling when cruising, bow and stern fenders excepted. When your fenders are in use, normally only while moored up, ensure they are properly secured. Alternatively, why not consider changing to natural rope fenders?

Get involved in litter picking

It's not just boaters' rubbish in the canal, sadly it's everybody's rubbish. Some is blown in from the streets and roads, and some is even fly-tipped into our treasured waterways.

Why not consider helping clean up by joining our volunteer Towpath Taskforce? There are groups based on waterways all over our network and they often organise litter picking sessions.

If you don't fancy taking part in an organised event, why not join our Plastics Challenge and pledge to do your own regular litter pick? Every piece of litter you remove is one less piece of rubbish that could potentially foul a lock gate, foul your boat's propeller, or make the bottom of the waterway too close to the top.

Man kneels on the towpath holding a plant pot for a child to fill

Take our Plastics Challenge

Discover what you can do on your doorstep to tackle the global plastics crisis

Last Edited: 08 September 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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