Proboat: Fiberglass Disposal Part 1

The problem of sensible and effective fiberglass disposal is well documented, and proven technological and regulatory solutions are available. So why does practical end-of-life disposal for old composite boats remain elusive?

It's 2021 and we are still trying to figure out how to best deal with derelict fiberglass boats. In the United States and many other countries, the immediately practical answer is to chop them up and cart them to the landfill despite the considerable recyclable material in each boat. It's like those clear poly­ethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) boxes that protect our prewashed greens; the technology exists to recycle them and they are labeled as such, but when the arugula is gone, in most jurisdictions there's no market for the material, so they're simply cut up and trashed. Plastic can be fantastic, but when it comes to end-of-life processing, not so much.

Rereading Eric Sponberg's prescient 1999 article about this very topic, "Recycling Dead Boats" (Professional BoatBuilder No. 60), it is disappointing that despite grand promises and clever ideas, not much has changed. Old glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) hulls keep piling up in harbors, backyards, boatyards, and landfills, perhaps because the central issues are stubborn: Fiberglass laminates are long-lasting, difficult to disassemble, and have scant value as recovered material. There's no happy second coming for GRP like there is for steel, aluminum, glass, or paper, which are part of an established recycling industry that turns old material (e.g., beer bottles, soda cans, and shipping boxes) into new products. In practice, none of these cycles is completely self-sustaining, often requiring the addition of virgin material with each use cycle.

By Dieter Loibner, Jan 25, 2021,

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Fiberglass Disposal Part 1 - Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

Sensible and profitable fiberglass disposal from old boats has eluded the industry for decades. Will that change anytime soon?
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