Deconstruction and recycling of boats

Published on December 22nd, 2021

In France, hundreds of pleasure boats reach the end of their life every year. According to the database made available by the Shom (Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service of the Navy), more than 4,700 wrecks sleep on the seabed off the French coast, including 4,200 near the metropolitan coast.

Faced with this observation, the APER (Association for Eco – Responsible Pleasure) has set itself the task of recovering end-of-life boats and recycling them. Here’s a report from the French publication Voiles et Voiliers:

Wrecks and dilapidated hulls on the shores or in the gardens are no longer inevitable. Since 2019, APER has been dedicated to recycling boats. Initially created by the FIN (Federation of Nautical Industries) in 2009, the association then mainly had an information role.

Ten years later, the APER is transformed in order to respond to the implementation of extended producer responsibility (REP) for pleasure or sport boats. In France, the principle of extended producer responsibility has existed in law since 1975.

Thus, there has been the emergence of many eco-organizations making it possible to organize the prevention and management of certain waste (batteries and accumulators, paper, electrical and electronic equipment, etc.). The objective being to treat the waste produced, but also to prevent them by acting on the entire product life cycle.

It was not until 2015 that this sector also concerned pleasure boats, and 2019 for its implementation. The APER eco-organization has been officially approved by the Ministry of Ecological Transition to set up and manage this sector throughout the country.

Eighty percent of pleasure craft were built before the 2000s, with an average lifespan of 30 to 40 years. The boats eligible for recycling are pleasure boats from 2.5 to 24 meters, registered in France. The owner can then contact the APER via the site to inquire about getting rid of their vessel, with the eco-organization responsible for putting the boat owner in touch with a deconstruction center.

“Its status goes from being a waste boat,” explains Guillaume Arnauld des Lions, general delegate of APER. In 2021, in France, there are around 26 approved deconstruction centers. While the deconstruction is now free, financed by the APER, the transport of the boat is the responsibility of the owner. However, APER will also cover the cost of transport beginning in 2023.

When a boat arrives at a deconstruction center, three materials are addressed: metals, wood, and composites. The metals are separated and grouped together. They are completely recycled. For wood, depending on its quality, 50% will be recycled into chipboard. Wood of poor quality, which cannot go through the paneling process, is crushed and goes into energy recovery.

“It will supply cement factories, hot water or electricity production plants,” continues the general delegate. “The third material is the most problematic. It is the composite, such as polyester or fiberglass.“

For these composites, there is not yet a pure recycling solution. If 60% of these composites go into energy recovery, the remaining 40%, on the other hand, are eliminated.

“We are working on the issue in order to find better solutions,” specifies the general delegate. APER, in partnership with the technical center for plastics (IPC) and Ademe, is in the process of finalizing a composite recycling guide which will be published in February 2022.

France is the only country in the world to have implemented this kind of system.

“No other country has set up a complete, organized and financed sector as is the case here,” adds Guillaume Arnauld of the Lions. Since September 2019, the eco-organization has deconstructed and recycled more than 4,000 pleasure boats, around 2,300 this year alone. “The objective for us is to continue to open deconstruction centers and thus to recycle even more boats.”

Editor’s note: This article was translated from French to English using Google Chrome.

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