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Trash tracking regulations get tougher

Jan 1, 2003

TRASH TRACKING REGULATIONS get tougher. New Coast Guard rules requiring many mariners to keep meticulous records of garbage handling aboard ship are causing headaches for vessel operators around the country.

"It's ridiculous to think that every bit of trash has to be accounted for, just to satisfy some policy-minded bureaucrat in Washington," said a pro mariner on the West Coast.

The latest rules, which went into effect in May, require all American-flag oceangoing vessels 40 feet or greater to log all disposals of garbage for Coast Guard review. Garbage records must include all relevant information, including position, and amount and type of refuse discharged.

One exception to this rule is that vessels are not required to categorize their garbage if they discharge it exclusively to shore facilities. However, they still must keep records of disposal operations ashore, according to the regs.

The Coast Guard implemented the new record-keeping requirements after studies showed that large amounts of plastic continue to wash ashore. "Evidence strongly suggests that, despite current regulations, large amounts of garbage are still being discharged overboard before plastics are separated for later disposal ashore or incineration aboard," said Coast Guard sources in Washington, D.C.

"No special logbook or forms are required by this rule, so the time needed to complete the records should be no more than five minutes per day," said Lt. Jonathan Burton at Coast Guard HQ.

Even with such estimates in mind, the new regs are irritating to some. "It's frustrating to think that with all of my other duties, I now have to keep detailed records of my trash," said a mariner.

According to Coast Guard predictions printed in the Federal Register, compliance with the new rules will cost the average towboat $805 a year. The total cost to the marine industry has been estimated at $12.4 million annually.