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Fiberglass Boat Recycling – or Landfill? I recently ran into an article that was originally published in Soundings Trade Only that was an in-depth look at this problem ( In Florida, there are an estimated 1500 abandoned or derelict boats. The Trade Only article stated that in January 2016, it was estimated that it would cost $3.5 million to clean up Florida’s active case file of 275 derelict boats. If you calculated the cost of cleaning up 1500 boats using those figures, the cost would be $20 million. If you have ever seen a derelict sailboat put on a truck to haul away, which I have, you can see that it is no small operation. A large crane has to pick the boat out of the water and place it on a semi-truck trailer. And the boat never sits nicely on the trailer—like a big box would. And the mast has to be off it, then it has to be secured safely for road travel, probably a long trip. Almost all of these boats go to the dump where they will be crushed as much as possible, then buried in a hole. There’s a lot of money involved with all these steps. And much of that, if not all, is paid for by the government, because the private sector doesn’t deal with it. We are paying big money to create another dump in a land that is already filled with dumps, because the United States is so big that land for dumps seems plentiful—plus it is out-ofsite and out-of-mind. So—what do we do? There are basically three solutions, but remember this: 90 percent of the fiberglass boats out there are powerboats and most of those are small boats. There are an estimated 12 million registered boats in the U.S., most of which are fiberglass. All of these eventually have to be dealt with, besides the millions out there already at the dump or ready to go to the dump. The cheapest way to get rid of a fiberglass boat?

Abandon it somewhere in some remote back water, or sink it. Not options that we need to have. Other options are chemical treatment or burning, both of which have high costs, besides environmental problems. The only real solution is recycling, which involves removing everything that’s not fiberglass and then grinding it up and making products, like benches, pilings, and planking for decks, seawalls, etc. In the U.S., there are a few companies that are recycling fiberglass, but Europe is doing the most, partially because they are more concerned about recycling than the U.S. is, plus they have less room for landfills. The main problem is cost and who pays for it; cost of getting the boat to the plant, removing non-fiberglass items and the cost of the machine to grind them up. Then there’s the cost of making products. These companies don’t buy fiberglass boats; people pay them to dispose of them. They are an option to landfill. And the big question is: Do landfill costs really reflect the real cost of a dump? It’s sweeping the dirt under the rug. Eventually, we have to deal with it. Many have come up with ideas to pay for the cost by wrapping it into the cost of the boat on purchase with a tax, or a tax that is incorporated into the sales price of a boat whenever it is transferred to a new owner. When I think of the $20-million estimate of disposing of the 1500 derelict boats in Florida mentioned at the beginning of this article, I wonder if a tax to pay for them will be the answer. And that’s only to pay for them being removed for landfill. Many states have deposits worked into the price of a bottle—so they aren’t just added to the landfill without some incentive to return them for recycling. Can you imagine adding a deposit onto the cost of a fiberglass boat when you purchase it? They say a boat has a useful life of maybe up to 50 years. Recycle or landfill?

Contribute to Southwinds – Articles and Photos Wanted Sailing Experiences: Stories and photos about experiences in places you’ve cruised; anchorages, marinas, or passages made throughout the Southern waters, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Boat Reviews: Review your boat. See the ad on page 43 on reviewing your boat Charter Stories: Have an interesting Charter story? In our Southern waters, or perhaps in the Bahamas or the Caribbean? Write About Your Yacht Club or Sailing Association: Tell us about your club, its history, facilities, major events, etc. Youth Sailing: Write about a local youth sailing organization or sailing camp Bahamas and the Caribbean: Trips, experiences, passages, anchorages, provisioning and other stories of interest.

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September 2017


September 2017  

A free, printed sailing magazine reporting on sailing in the southeast U.S: Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Missi...

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