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BOATsmart! USA Knowledge Base

Module 04 - Safe Responsible Boat Operation

Litter Laws

Federal law prohibits the release of waste matter of any kind into U.S. waters—this includes trash, garbage, oil and other liquid pollutants. The rules are the same for all boat types and depend on how far your boat is from shore:

Distance From Shore:

Illegal Litter:

Prohibited in all areas.

Plastics, including items like artificial ropes, fishing nets and plastic bags.

Prohibited less than 3 miles from shore and in U.S. lakes, rivers and the Great Lakes.

Plastic, food waste not ground down to less than one inch, packing materials (like foam) and any other garbage (like paper, glass, metal cans, etc.).

Prohibited 3-12 miles from shore.

Plastic, food waste, packing materials and any other waste not ground down to less than one inch (like paper, rags, glass, metal, bottles, plates and cutlery, and similar litter).

Prohibited 12-25 miles from shore.

Plastic, packing materials and lining that float.

25 + miles from shore.

Plastic materials.

Note: It’s ALWAYS illegal to dump plastic into the water.

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