A canal is not a bin

Believe it or not a lot of people, not just boaters, are confused as to what is OK to put in the canal and what is not OK, so here’s a simple guide.

Rubbish in the canal Rubbish in the canal

The rules for boaters as to what is acceptable to go overboard into the water are very simple indeed. There are only two things that are permitted: clean water and 'grey' water. Grey water is the waste water from washing-up dishes and cooking utensils, showers, sinks and washing machines only. Ideally, any detergents used would be more environmentally friendly lower phosphate type soaps.

Nothing but clear or grey or maggots!

The rules for non-boaters as to what you can put into the canal are even simpler as the answer is 'nothing', unless you are an angler, in which case the casting of bait in the hope of attracting a fish is ok and probably highly desirable if you want to catch anything.

Unfortunately, lots of people, boaters and non-boaters, keep on putting inappropriate things into the canal, which either present a hazard to the environment or contribute to making the bottom too close to the top for comfortable boating. Dumping litter and rubbish by the canal results in it getting blown into the canal and is as bad as dumping it into the water.

Never ever put these in the canal please

  • oily bilge water
  • used engine oil or any other type of oil
  • paint or any other hazardous liquid
  • diesel or petrol
  • the contents of your toilet, whether it’s pump-out, cassette or sea-toilet
  • coal or coke ash from a solid fuel stove 
  • shopping trollies, stolen fast food delivery bikes, bags of rubbish and items involved in criminal acts such as guns and knives

Other unacceptable practices

  • peeing in the canal 
  • flicking your dog’s mess into the canal
  • throwing any 'past their best' vegetables and vegetable peelings out through the side hatch
  • throwing cigarette butts into the canal
  • throwing bread for the ducks and other water fowl, particularly mouldy bread
  • throwing weeds, grass cuttings, sticks and stones into the canal
  • non-biodegradable religious offerings

We could continue to add to the list but we’re sure you’ve got the gist by now.

How to report an incident

If you see a pollution incident, you can report it to the Environment Agency on 0800 807060. Other incidents you can report to our friendly customer services team on 03030 404040 or by filling in our online contact form.

Thanks in advance for helping us keep our canals flowing and safe for ourselves and the wildlife we share them with.

Last date edited: 28 January 2021

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Our boating team bring you news of their work across our network, as well as the stories of boaters they meet

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