Need to improve your eco credentials? How to manage your marine debris

Waterfront and Marina operators need to be green, and need to be seen to be green. This is our guide to how to manage your marine debris.

We’ve highlighted before that roughly 80 percent of marine pollution originates on land, and if you aren’t persuaded of the scale of the problem yet then you probably never will be! David Attenbrough, who is as responsible as anyone for increasing awareness of the problem, said recently that “we are changing our habits, and the world is waking up to what we’ve done to the planet” – but whilst individuals have a role to play, so do companies, charities and the public sector. It is critical that these organisations get their act together and improve their environmental impact, but it isn’t always obvious how to do it – this is our guide to how to manage marine debris for anyone working in the industry.


There are a huge number of conventions, agreements, regulations, strategies, action plans, programs and guidelines about both reducing the amount of plastic and other pollution entering the water system, and dealing with the huge amounts of waste already in our oceans and other waterways. Obviously reducing plastic usage and waste is the principal long-term objective, but there are also more proactive things that we can do now.


Read and commit to the Honolulu Strategy

The Honolulu Strategy is a UN Framework for a ‘a comprehensive and global effort to reduce the ecological, human health, and economic impacts of marine debris globally’. It’s not new, but it’s still not widely known outside the environmental community. Of particular interest to those managing inland waterways, marinas and other marine environments are Goal A (Reduced amount and impact of land-based sources of marine debris introduced into the sea) and Goal C (Reduced amount and impact of accumulated marine debris on shorelines, in benthic habitats, and in pelagic waters).

Any organisation who is serious about committing to improving the marine environment should be familiar with the strategy, and examine how they can contribute.

We think that there are some easy wins suggested in the strategy itself. For example, the strategies that are suggested for Goal A7: (Conduct regular cleanup efforts on coastal lands, in watersheds, and in waterways—especially at hot spots of marine debris accumulation), include:

Promote and support community-based cleanup campaigns as education/outreach events

Develop and promote best cleanup and disposal options, including manual cleanup, when advisable, in non-beach shoreline areas

Research Your Local, National or Regional Action Plan 

There are a huge range of other actions, initiatives and programmes dedicated to reducing the impact of marine litter, and it might be easier to join in with something already happening than starting from scratch. Check The Global Partnership on Marine Litter to see if there is an action plan that covers your location, and if so, research how you can contribute. Don’t be afraid to contact the organisations already involved – they will probably be delighted to hear from you, and if there isn’t an easy way for you to get involved with what they are already doing, they might be able to point you in a different direction. If there isn’t an action plan that covers your area, you might need to take the lead on creating one! This is a much bigger piece of work, but for the right organisation could be a chance to make a huge difference.

Marine Industry Programmes

One of the most widely known international programmes is the Clean Marina awards.  This incentive based scheme encourages the elimination of single-use plastics and better environmental stewardship and is aimed primarily at Marinas, Yacht Clubs and Boatyards.  Many of our clients have achieved this prestigious accreditation, demonstrating their commitment to their local marine environment and their investment in maintaining clean, safe and attractive waterspaces.



We’ll have more on these shortly, but the first step is just to adopt and publicly commit to one or more of these strategies – put it on your website, put out a press release, share it on social. Making a public commitment is a strong motivation to follow through and get things done. Your customers, suppliers and peers can hold you accountable, but just as importantly they can and will support and encourage you.

Take the Clean Seas Pledge

The Clean Seas Campaign was launched by the United Nations Environment Programme in 2017 with the hope of creating a ‘global movement to turn the tide on plastic’. ( After a strong start, with a number of countries, companies and individuals taking the pledge to make a difference to plastic pollution, momentum has died away a little – but all the resources are still available on the website, and they are still actively looking for people to take the pledge on social media. 


Make a pledge, share it widely and encourage other people to do the same.

Join the Global Partnership on Marine Litters


If you are willing and able to get involved a bit more intensely, you should consider joining the Global Partnership on Marine Litters. This involves volunteering to contribute to one or more of the GPML focus areas:

  • Reduced levels and impacts of land-based litter and solid waste introduced into the aquatic environment;
  • Reduced levels and impacts of sea-based sources of marine debris including solid waste, lost cargo, ALDFG, and abandoned vessels introduced into the aquatic environment;
  • Reduced levels and impacts of (accumulated) marine debris on shorelines, aquatic habitats, and biodiversity.

Make your own plan

It might be that none of these initiatives catch  your eye or suit your organisation. Not to worry, you can come up with your own plan! These are our suggestions for your planning process:

  1. Be ambitious, but realistic! If you pick something too big to take on, you might find yourself overwhelmed. You’re looking for things that will make a difference, might challenge you, but that you are confident you can achieve.
  2. Think about what resources you have available and then look for how you can use these resources to make the biggest possible impact.
  3. Don’t just jump on a bandwagon – do something that is relevant to you.
  4. Prepare a good case to use with colleagues or managers – justify why it’s important to get involved, how you can make a difference, and why it’s important for the organisation.
  5. Give yourself clear, actionable targets.
  6. Look for people to help and support – don’t just go it alone.


But of course the key question is: what should we do? In our experience, there will be a number of things that your organisation is doing that you need to stop, straight away, and some things that you aren’t doing that you should be. We can’t stress enough how important it is just to get on with it! 

You might want to start with a waste audit ( and making a list of all the plastics that you use in the business. The marine conservation society has put together a quick guide for businesses and other organisations to reduce their plastic use ( And if you’re stuck for inspiration, have a look at these!

One of our favourite suggestions is for you to take the lead to educate and inspire colleagues – maybe by arranging a viewing of a film about plastic like the  documentaries at If you can inspire others to take action too, then your impact can be much greater.

Finally, look at your local environment – in particular, if you are close to open water, evaluate how polluted it is, and look for options to improve it. There’s a good chance that it’s not actually your organisation responsible for the pollution (that’s the nature of marine pollution, it gets carried around by the water!) but it doesn’t matter – someone has to take responsibility for the problem, and why shouldn’t that person be you?


If you do identify opportunities to improve the local marine environment, you don’t necessarily have to go it alone. Often it just needs someone to take the lead, organise other people and galvanise them into action. You might be surprised at the strength of feeling about the state of your local harbour or river, and at how willing people are to help if given the opportunity. Of course, not everyone will be willing to ‘put their money where their mouth is’, but we find that enough people are proud of their local community and willing to get involved that community organisation is a realistic proposition.

A great example is the Bristol Harbour  Authority in the UK which leads ​#CleanUpBristolHarbour.  It is a monthly event inviting local people to come along and pick up the floating rubbish that accumulates in the famous harbour.  Volunteers help ‘fish for plastic’ from their Water Witch litter collection craft and the Harbour Office keeps a record of the amount of debris collected at each Clean Up.

If your organisation is big enough, or has resource available, then kickstarting a project can be a great way to get this up and running. For example, a company could commit to buying cleanup equipment for a charity or community group to use – it doesn’t always need to be a new group, often there are existing environmental groups or other organisations who would be delighted to get involved but just don’t have the resource. Offering to fund them is an amazing way to do your bit to manage marine debris.

Finally, if you can’t find any local groups to get involved with, and don’t want to take on the commitment of starting one, you can always sponsor someone else!


If we go back to the strategies suggested above for regular clean up in coastal areas or inland waterways, it’s pretty obvious that parts of the job might need some serious kit! 

Beach cleans and litter picks are great, but you’re only getting a fraction of what’s in the water. For proper clean ups, and particularly for inland waterways like canals, lakes, rivers and marinas, it’s worth looking at specialist equipment. Water Witch have a number of options for this, and the investment is much less that you might think – our specialist marine cleanup vessels range from small shallow draft skiffs right up to 18 tonne surface dredgers so we cover all budgets. 

It is entirely possible for a company to properly taking responsibility for your local waterway, buy the equipment and pay a crew to operate it. Depending on the location, a couple of times a month might make a massive difference, or it might need to be more regular. The team of Water Witch have got many years experience in this area, and we’d be happy to give you advice about how to  get started and what equipment would suit your aspirations.


Efforts to deal with pollution are amazing PR opportunities. Make sure you get good photos of your efforts to go along with your press release, or even better get organised enough to invite some journalists to come down and see you at work – local press and trade press are most likely to be interested, in our experience, but you may also have some success persuading local TV news to take a look too. If your organisation has inhouse public relations people, or employs a PR firm, make sure to get them involved as early as possible in the process. If you are a smaller company you might need to do more yourself, but don’t be afraid! Have a look at this guide to small business PR:

It’s really important to recognise achievements and celebrate successes.

#cleanseas #zerowaste #sustainableliving #litterati #minutebeachclean #protectwhatyoulove #everybitcounts #forthesea #planetoverplastic #leavenotrace #noyoupickitup #piecesaday #pickitup #plasticfreeapril #wearedoingourpartareyou #stoplitteringnow #littercleanup #reduceyourplastic  #sustainability #beatplasticpollution #plasticfreeoceans #workingforablueocean #cleanmarina

Here at Water Witch, we hope to play our part by providing fully electric debris collection and trash retrieval boats to Ports, Marinas and Waterways Authorities around the world. Our range of tried and tested workboats have been developed to offer users a versatile, multi-purpose craft that can perform a wide range of duties in addition to efficient aquatic trash and debris removal.

Water Witch partner with Marina and Harbour Authorities, Waterway Authorities and tourist resorts to provide peace of mind, deliver efficient management and maintenance of your marine environment that will improve your own green credentials and ensure your visitors keep coming back.


If you need more information about our workboats and innovative solutions for marine debris and waterway cleanup, please contact us.


+44 (0)151 207 4874 |

Step 1 of 2