Defra appoints Resource Futures to help tackle illegal disposal of recreational boats

16 January 2023

Resource Futures has been contracted by Defra to conduct research into end-of-life recreational boats which, when abandoned, can lead to harmful materials, such as hazardous chemicals, litter and microplastics, spreading in the marine environment.

Illegal disposal of recreational boats is an issue across the UK and the whole North-East Atlantic, which negatively impacts communities, businesses and public bodies. The research seeks to better understand the causes, scale and impacts to inform policy to tackle this issue.

Article update: the research was published by Defra in February 2024. View here

The work has been commissioned by Defra to progress the UK’s commitment to lead action B.2.1 of the new OSPAR Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter. This action focuses on tackling marine litter by managing end-of-life recreational boats.

The project, which will run until April 2023, aims to inform policy development to discourage abandonment and improve waste management of end-of-life recreational boats by establishing volume, location and type of materials in the waste stream and understanding current disposal options and barriers in the UK and across the OSPAR Maritime Area.

We are excited to further our work tackling marine litter with this important project which will influence policy across the UK and wider OSPAR region. Abandoned boats are a source of marine pollution that needs to be addressed and this work will provide the evidence base and policy analysis to enable positive action and protect our marine environment.

George Cole, Director at Resource Futures

Resource Futures will run a workshop with industry stakeholders in the UK to assess potential policy options to address the problem. A second workshop will be run with representatives from the OSPAR nations to further understand the issue in these nations and review policy options to both prevent abandonment and improve waste management of end-of-life recreational boats.

Data availability on this topic is limited. Resource Futures will therefore work with stakeholders across the industry to build a profile of recreational boats in use nationally and across the UK. This will enable understanding of tonnages of key materials such as fibreglass, wood and metal in use in this industry and therefore specific disposal requirements and recycling potential. Methodology for this quantitative assessment will be provided to OSPAR nations to enable quantification of boats across the region.

The factors that lead to recreational boats being abandoned are many and varied. Policy options will need to be systematic and target the underlying causes if we are to tackle the associated environmental and economic impacts. We look forward to learning from key stakeholders to establish a clear understanding of the issue and develop best practice solutions for the future.

Katie Powell, Senior Consultant at Resource Futures

The project builds on Resource Futures’ experience quantifying marine litter issues in order to inform and assess policy options. A previous UK-wide assessment of fishing and aquaculture gear provided an estimate of annual waste arisings, which were used to understand the main costs and benefits of shortlisted policy options for managing these waste streams.

Article update: the research was published by Defra in February 2024. View here