RIMTA’s new pilot project will re-processes fibreglass hulls into cement

With tens-of-thousands of fibreglass boats manufactured between the 1970s and 1990s coming to their end-of-life cycle, the Rhode Island Marine Trade Association (RIMTA) is hoping its Fiberglass Vessel Recycling Pilot Project (FVR) could be a solution to a growing disposal concern.

The pilot will focus on a sustainable disposal method that re-processes fibreglass hulls into cement.

Without a sustainable option for disposal, those boats could be crushed and dumped in landfills, leeching chemicals for many years, abandoned on any spare piece of ground, or scuttled near-shore, to become an environmental and navigational hazard.

Rhode Island Sea Grant and RIMTA studied efforts in Europe to combat the same issue for two years before launching a pilot program.

In addition to partnering with local boatyards for dismantling and crushing 20 to 30 metric tonnes of fibreglass, the pilot program involves local, state and federal agencies to assure all health and safety requirements are met, in addition to establishing legislative and regulatory support for fibreglass hull recycling.

“We are continuing to answer critical questions surrounding the lifecycle of recreational boats and the sustainable reuse of fiberglass waste,” said RIMTA project manager Evan Ridley in a briefing document. “Boats constructed with composite materials offer an incredible opportunity for our state to establish a new network for the collection and recycling of high-value waste derived from thousands of other composite-based products currently being landfilled. These efforts stretch beyond the sustainability of recreational boating and provide a foundation for the expansion of our circular economy in the Ocean State.”

An economic analysis of the pilot will be conducted to determine long-term feasibility and RIMTA will “develop resources to aid in fibreglass vessel recycling programs throughout the US and globally.”

Funding for the project is coming from 11th Hour Racing, the Association of Marina Industries, the BoatUS Foundation, and the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation. Project organisers continue to seek funding from inside and outside the marine and composites industries.