There is a need for a programme around sensible disposing of abandoned boats. Yachting World Editor Elaine Bunting reports on boat recycling

What used to be rather romantically thought of as shipwrecks or derelicts are really just non-biodegradable litter in boatyards and along the coastlines of the world – in effect, fly-tipping. The subject of what is known as ‘end-of-life’ hulls comes up periodically, but no one in the industry or any co-ordinating authority has ever suggested a way to deal with the disposing of abandoned boats.

Since most abandoned boats are not registered, there is no way of making the polluter pay or, as in the car industry, factoring a scrapping fund into the initial purchase cost. There is also no organised disposal process, as in the EU for batteries and household appliances.

But there is a growing chorus of discussion about how to organise sensible disposal. The subject was addressed again this year at a boating symposium in Rotterdam. There are an estimated 25,000 end-of-life hulls in the Netherlands alone, and industry insiders there are concerned that waiting for governments or the EU to enforce disposal rules will ultimately cost everyone more than a self-regulated system.

Dutch company Jacht Recycling BV believes it is leading the way by issuing owners of end-of-life boats a certificate that transfers a boat’s ownership, guarantees the vessel is taken off the market and that reusable parts will be recycled. Marine consultant Wiet Janssen suggested a scrapping tax could be included in a vessel’s purchase price based on the amount of polyester used in its build, pointing out that in 2013 disposal of boat polyester cost €150 per tonne in the Netherlands and €115 in Germany.

Used polyester has little value for recycling, but other boat parts can be recycled and resold or returned to the production chain.

The symposium follows a workshop held at the Düsseldorf Boat Show in January, where the issue was also aired. “Recycling does not always have to be in your own industry,” commented Dutch economist Adjiedj Bakas. “You can recycle parts of a boat in another industry. That’s how old car tyres become highway sound insulation material. Or how plastic bottles are turned into synthetic car fuel. This is my advice to the boat sector: talk to other industries, get inspired, get ideas! This is interesting especially as the prices of raw materials are going up.”


This is an extract from a feature in Yachting World September 2014 issue