The Rhode Island Marine Trades Association last year launched a pilot program to address end-of-life fiberglass boats. It was first boat recycling project in the nation.
Such programs have existed in other countries for some time. In the Netherlands, composite materials are repurposed into river and canal retaining walls. Italian researchers turn fiberglass into kitchen counters or flooring, and a French boat-dismantling and recycling network has shown encouraging results.
RIMTA’s Phase 1, which ended in 2019 was deemed a success, with more than 20 tons of vessels collected and recycled. The recycled materials were used as filler in the manufacturing of concrete and as an energy source, which has led to Phase 2 of the project.
“Facing the Legacy: Lifecycle Solutions for Fiberglass Boats,” a video that explains the program and the reasons for launching it can be seen here.
“Fiberglass doesn’t break down, and it doesn’t go away,” Evan Ridley, RIMTA’s director of environmental programs, said in the video. “Boatbuilders, boat owners and boat businesses alike face limited options for responsible disposal.”
RIMTA said Phase 2 will include an economic analysis of the program to help determine long-term feasibility, as well as opportunities for potential legislation and regulations that are supportive of fiberglass boat recycling.
Several groups made the pilot program possible, including 11th Hour Racing, the Association of Marina Industries, the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corp. and the BoatUS Foundation Grassroots Grant Program.
“Creating a sustainable alternative to landfilling for boats is possible,” Ridley said, “but it will take industry leadership and collaboration to bring this effort to the next level.”