The Future of Yacht Recycling

Published on August 15th, 2015

A yachting industry forum – The Future of Yacht Recycling – will seek to address the considerable challenges and opportunities presented by what has become known as ‘End-of-Life Boats’.

In recent years most nations with ownership of significant numbers of leisure yachts amongst their population, have been turning their attention to the ELB phenomena which has been exacerbated due to the boom years of the 70s and 80’s, when large numbers of yachts were mass produced from long-life composite construction materials. And due to the fact their average life span is 30 to 50 years, they are now presenting the yachting industry with some economic and environmental challenges, in fairly large and annually increasing numbers.

As far back as 1999 the US based naval architect Eric Sponberg wrote an article entitled Recycling Dead Boats, in which he said: “Boat builders cannot produce a new boat that is competitively priced with its used counterpart. And added to that, “the industry has ‘shot itself in the foot’ by building boats out of such a durable and almost indestructible material as fibreglass (GRP.)”

Sponberg elaborated further: “What we need is a disposal pipeline for old boats. Take them out of the market, cut them up, grind them into little pieces and use them for something else. If old boats go away, the market and marinas automatically have space for new boats, and business booms. Recycling of course is the answer.”

More recently a study carried out by ICOMIA (The International Council of Marine Industry Associations) has estimated that there are more than 6 million recreational craft in Europe alone. This also revealed that historically, disposal methods have been crude, and generally involve chopping up composite structures and reducing them to fragments that can be sent to landfill, which is considered unsustainable in the long run. So again, recycling is the only realistic option for the future…

So, now there is a new technical and commercial process in the yachting industry that will undoubtably develop and expand into the future. Not only that, but naval architects, designers, boat builders and their sub suppliers will start to think more creatively about how to construct yachts, taking into account the eventual prospect of sustainably recycling them.

The Future of Yacht Recycling Conference, scheduled alongside METS 2015, is on November 16 at the RAI Conference Centre in Amsterdam. Additional details.

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