Building a Fiberglass Boat Recycling Program

A pile of vessel materials collected for processing.

The Rhode Island Marine Trades Association Foundation is working to expand a successful vessel recycling program in Rhode Island to Washington, New England, and other interested locations.

Type of Project: Prevention

Region: Northeast

Project Dates: September 2020 - August 2021

Who is involved?
With the support of the NOAA Marine Debris Program, partners at the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association Foundation are expanding a pilot project to coordinate stakeholders in Washington, New England, and other interested locations to collect end-of-life vessels and prepare their materials for beneficial reuse. These efforts will promote the discussion of a national boat recycling program, allowing for efficient replication of the model originally established in Rhode Island. This process will enhance the removal of derelict, abandoned, or storm-wrecked boats that pose as immediate threats to the marine environment.

What is the project and why is it important?
The National Marine Manufacturers Association currently estimates between 2-3% of all recreational boats in the United States reach the end of their usable life each year—approximately 200,000 annually. An increase in the number of unusable fiberglass boats in U.S. coastal communities could potentially increase boat abandonment, dereliction, and mismanagement, as well as the number of boats that end up as marine debris. Hurricanes and natural disasters also contribute to marine debris by wrecking boats. With few options for vessel disposal, these factors amplify the need for a sustainable method of managing boat materials and eliminating their risk of negatively impacting the marine environment. 

Over a 12-month period, the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association Foundation Fiberglass Boat Recycling Program is building out a sustainable financial model for fiberglass boat recycling and assisting Washington, states in the New England region, and additional interested locations in replicating boat recycling programs originally piloted in Rhode Island. Partners are developing educational tools, and engaging regional and national marine industry organizations and businesses to promote awareness of and participation in the creation of a proactive long-term solution that prevents marine debris associated with fiberglass boats. When co-processed in a cement kiln, the fiberglass materials taken from end-of-life boats, provide both thermal energy and raw material replacement that reduce the environmental impacts of creating new cement products.

For more information about this project, visit the Marine Debris Program Clearinghouse.