Abandoned leisure boats a growing environmental issue

Published 22 September 2023
- By Editorial Staff
Over a hundred thousand abandoned recreational boats are spreading microplastics, heavy metals, and leaking oil into the sea, according to a report from the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management.

According to a new report from the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (HaV), the increasing number of abandoned recreational boats in Sweden has become an environmental issue in Swedish waters. HaV is now proposing measures to address the problem.

Older boats that have been abandoned not only litter, but also spread hazardous substances. Among other things, plastic hulls break down into microplastics, and older bottom paints can contain heavy metals and organotin compounds (such as TBT) that are toxic to aquatic animals. Many older boats also contain asbestos, a building material that is now banned due to serious health risks. Additionally, oil residues can leak out and spread in the sea.

Today, there are several hundred thousand abandoned recreational boats across the country, and the number increases by several thousand each year, according to HaV’s report. Only about 500 of these are properly taken care of each year.

HaV therefore proposes the introduction of a long-term recycling system and suggests that clearer regulations are needed to allow municipalities to take care of abandoned recreational boats. They also suggest the establishment of a recreational boat registry where producer responsibility should also be included. They propose that the government assign the Swedish Transport Agency to investigate this possibility.

– Producer responsibility means that the manufacturers are responsible for taking care of the boats in a responsible manner when they have reached the end of their lifespan, says Mats Svensson, head of HaV’s Department of Marine Management.

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