Marine/Sea litter


Duties are placed on ships for the appropriate disposal of litter, but marine-based litter often originates from land-based sources. It is not clear, however, that any specific public body has responsibility for the clearance of litter floating in marine waters. Although the Maritime and Coastguard Agency provide policy documents and may become involved in the clearing of litter on the waters, it does not appear as if this body or, in fact, any other body is duty-bound to do so in law.

Responsibility for Clearance

  • Councils: district and borough councils do not have a specific duty to clear litter from rivers or the sea.
  • Maritime and Coast Guard Agency: There is no apparent legislation placing a duty on the Marine and Coat Guard Agency to clear litter from the sea/marine environment.
  • Environment Agency: The Environment Agency has responsibility for water quality and flooding but doesn’t have any duty to keep the sea clear of litter or enforce against littering.
  • Volunteers: there is no legal obligation on volunteers to clear litter from the sea.
Three people litter picking by a canal
Back to Litter in Water
Volunteers on litter pick walking away from camera with sacks of litter
Redress for members of the public
A young woman looks to the camera as she holds a litter picker and rubbish bag
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