Cape Cod, Mass., boatyards and dealers: Don’t toss your shrink-wrap!
Traditionally, the wrap has ended up in the waste stream after coming off boats preparing for launch. However, through recycling efforts at two Massachusetts facilities, the material — also known as No. 4 low-density polyethylene — will head overseas to be converted to new construction material.
Woods Hole Sea Grant Program and the Bourne Integrated Solid Waste Management Facility are working together to find a new purpose for the shrink-wrap, according to The Bourne Courier.
Jeffrey Brodeur, community outreach specialist at the program, explained that efforts to reuse the plastic have largely stepped up in the last five years and he said his offer to provide a free drop-off site to gather the material is to just one way to help the process along.
"This is the first real attempt at this project, so we are starting slow and, depending on how it goes, we hope to expand next year. We want to help teach people that it can actually be reused to make some pretty incredible things," Brodeur told the newspaper.
A marine debris specialist, Brodeur first thought about gathering boat shrink-wrap after he saw someone putting it out with the regular trash to be taken to the dump. He said that in most cases the plastic will either be burned or will end up in the waste stream, which can affect the environment and human health.
“The fact is, when plastics aren't recycled, they break down but don't go away; they just get smaller and smaller over 400 years and impact marine and wildlife, which can then affect our health as well,” he said.
Although marinas often recycle the shrink-wrap for their clients, Jim Power, manager at Bosun's East Falmouth Marina, said it's just one step in a thorough process of preparing boats for the season.
"At the end of the summer there are a ton of things we do to winterize boats, such as washing the bottoms, draining water systems and covering the boats in blue or white shrink wrap," Power said. "To wrap the boats, we insert some wooden framing that goes over the boat, then the plastic is laid over it so that if it snows, the cover won't collapse. We then use propane tanks and a wide flame gun, which shrinks the wrap and conforms it to the boat."
Power said that, in the spring, the marina reverses the process and delivers the shrink wrap to the Bourne Integrated Solid Waste Management Facility, where it is taken away for recycling. He said it is part of the service the marina provides and that, in most cases, it is much appreciated.
"We have a boatyard here and storage yards, and to recycle the shrink-wrap is actually one of the ending components overall,” Power said. “And in the big scheme of things when we tell our customers that it's going to be recycled, they are really pleased. And that is the idea — to make the customer happy."