Keeping our sport out of the dumpster

Published on May 12th, 2022

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
When the shift from wood to fiberglass construction began in the 1960s, it led to a massive growth of production. This launched the good times for lots of builders, but since fiberglass boats effectively exist forever, the used boat market slowed new boat builds to where we are today.

But as we all know, some boats don’t exist forever very well. When a local boat suffered a propane explosion, it remained floating but was otherwise a total loss, and now waits for a truck to haul it away to the landfill.

The topic of recycling fiberglass boats has become a marine industry issue, but more so on how to build boats that can be recycled. For the boat recycling actually getting done today, the examples I know of have government funding. Like many things that can be recycled, the cost of the process exceeds the value of the material created.

Think about all the plastic that is allegedly recyclable, yet my understanding is that it only occurs with the #1 and #2 (those numbers in the triangle on the bottom of containers) material which is easy to process while the rest of plastic in the recycle bin becomes trash.

But sails is another matter, and when I realized I was storing a racing headsail that I should never race with again, I called North Sails San Diego who gladly took it. They collect used sails and send them to Sea Bags, a USA company that turns retired sails into other products.

In a story by Yachting Monthly, the discussion recognizes how sails represent nothing more or less than a huge sheet of plastic or, even worse, carbon fibre. But while upcycling these dead sails is nice, how many duffle bags does the world need?

However, OneSails now offers a racing sail made with continuous yarn composite construction that is ISO certified to be recyclable. Because these are made without glue or Mylar film, they are pure polyester and can be processed at an existing recycling plant back into PE pellets for further use.

For more on the topic of sail recycling, click here.

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