Boat owners who toss their waste into the sea are being encouraged to use a pilot recycling station at Yas Marina Port.
The opening of the facility was planned to precede the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix, which attracts big yachts and boats to the capital, said Salem al Mehairi, general manager of water transport at the Department of Transport (DoT).
The DoT launched the recycling station with the Centre of Waste Management - Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
"This particular recycling facility is set up for small ports and marinas, it will serve any vessel that comes to the marina," said Essam Ahmad, senior consultant at the centre.
The new waste collection station includes two containers with a capacity of 1.1 cubic metres each. One container is to be used for recyclable items such as plastics, drinks containers, glass, paper and metal. The other is for general rubbish.
The facility also offers a tank for old lubricating oils and hydraulic fluids.
Officials will study how boat owners respond and use the information to launch similar recycling centres at other marinas. "Our intent is to move to other small ports in the emirate," said Mr Ahmad.
The facility goes part of the way to fulfilling some of the UAE's obligations under the 2008 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, or Marpol.
Under the convention, the governments of bordering states, including Bahrain, Iran, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, must put in place new measures to prevent pollution of the sea.
While it is usually large vessels that have been singled out for their negative impact on the marine environment through the release of large amounts of oil or ballast water, smaller boats can cause significant damage too.
Mr Ahmad said that the oil leaking out of discarded containers is a hazardous waste with "humongous effects on the environment and marine life".
Abu Dhabi's coastal waters are generally clean, but it is not unusual to find plastics as well as lubricant containers spilling small amounts of oil, said Kathleen Russell, a diving instructor at the Al Mahara Diving Centre, who dives the Abu Dhabi waters daily.
"Some recreational boaters throw away a plastic bottle here and there," she said, adding divers also find plastic containers for lubricants, such as engine oil, near ports and arenas.