At the helm: Fiberglass vessel recycling needs more industry support

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Every year in the U.S. an increasing number of recreational fiberglass boats reach their end of life without a sustainable option for disposal. 

Some will be crushed and buried in landfills, where they will persist for many years, while others may be abandoned by their owners on land or in coastal areas where they can potentially harm the marine environment.

This is a serious challenge facing boat owners, state governments, and the national marine trades industry – and the Ocean State is leading the search for a solution.

Launched by Rhode Island Sea Grant and Rhode Island Marine Trades Association, the Rhode Island Fiberglass Vessel Recycling Pilot Project is exploring solutions for the sustainable disposal of fiberglass boats, by dismantling and re-processing of fiberglass hulls into cement as an alternative to landfill.

According to a recent RIMTA e-newsletter, while the RIFVR pilot is a local Rhode Island project, its findings could have national applications. 

While Rhode Island’s limited landfill area was an impetus to establishing the project, other states are struggling with finding solutions to the same issue. 

The BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water is the latest organization to lend support to the project. The Foundation’s participation is a welcome development. The pilot is a collaboration among local, regional and national partners who are working toward the material-collection phase.

In mid-December, The Hill Times, Canada’s most influential political newspaper, published an eye-opening opinion-editorial piece on the subject penned by Sara Anghel, National Marine Manufacturers Association Canada president.

“Although the vast majority of boat owners care about the environment and are responsible owners, their options to dispose of their vessels are limited,” Anghel wrote. “A strong and enforceable licensing program providing accurate data on ownership and registration is a good start in addressing the issue.” We concur.

The options now for recreational boat owners are either to take their boat to a landfill or try to work with a local marina and recycle various boat parts. 

Due to lack of information, Canada does not know how many boats are being abandoned or are nearing their useful end, Anghel reported, adding that other countries, namely France, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Japan, provide their boat owners with safe, reliable recycling options that Canada could emulate. 

The boating industry needs to provide continue support recycling options for boats before they’re abandoned.

If you want to learn more about the Rhode Island Fiberglass Vessel Recycling Pilot Project, contact project manager Evan Ridley via email at evan@rimta.org or phone at (401) 396-9619. A little education could go a long way in molding a solution to a pressing industry problem.   

 

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