reusing marine materialsThe topic of recycling is hardly glamorous, but with our culture’s perpetually enthusiastic rate of consumption, our castoffs have to go somewhere. In a simpler time and age, we either burned our unwanted, battered or otherwise unusable items or we ended up burying them in massive underground depositories called landfills, which actually worked for a long stretch since we didn’t spend much time contemplating the consequences. Today, those methods, while still implemented, are understandably losing favor in light of the fact that they place unnecessary strain on our natural environment. The one thing that “recycling” needs today more than ever is a celebrity publicist working on its behalf — a professional who really understands how to expertly revamp an image so consumers are able to let go of all their preconceived notions and just do it for the good of the planet. Until that happens, the very notion of consistently reusing materials rather than plunking them in the closest garbage can could very well continue to be an uphill battle. Boats, on the other hand? They don’t really need an image boost. Depending on how they’re designed and who is on board, they’re almost instantaneously regarded as glamorous. Residents of coastal states generally have more of an up-close-and-personal relationship with seafaring crafts than those in land-locked regions, and while there are undeniably liberating perks to owning a boat, it’s not all sunshine and roses. Right off the bat, paying for a boat is a biggie, not to mention the cost of fuel, which undoubtedly stings when you have to fill up a 50-gallon tank. Then, you have to plunk down a monthly fee simply just for the privilege of docking it somewhere. Don’t forget about shrink-wrapping your craft with hundreds of feet of heavy-gauge plastic in preparation for the brutal winter months. So, what’s the big ecological issue? At least in Rhode Island, for years upon years, boat owners have been removing the plastic shrink-wrap protecting their docked boats as soon as the threat of winter has passed. Unfortunately, as with so many other materials that are typically cast aside, this durable sheeting has met its premature demise in local landfills. Fortunately, the Rhode Island Marine Trade Association (RIMTA) recognized the eco-travesty continually playing out, and with the help of an initial $15,000 grant courtesy of Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, it has been able to implement the following unique recycling/education program for the past eight years:
  • Boat owners are automatically furnished with a brochure touting the benefits of taking the extra time to recycle their used shrink-wrapping, no matter the color. It even details how to safely and effectively remove used plastic without contaminating the whole collection with zippers, vents and belly bands.
  • RIMTA also encourages boat owners to purchase reusable alternatives such as durable tarpaulins and boat covers in order to make a more sustainable choice.
  • Clear polyethylene bags specifically designed to hold recycled boat shrink-wrapping are available to purchase for $17 each, which covers the expense of the recycling service as well as fuel costs during the hauling process. (For example, two to three bags must be purchased in order to accommodate the shrink-wrapping material used for a 30-foot boat.)
  • As many as 47 marinas also offer boat owners access to recycling dumpsters that are dedicated solely to collecting this heavy-gauge plastic.
  • A recycling truck used specifically for the boat shrink-wrap collection program makes pickups at designated areas (such as boat retailers and marinas) from spring through autumn.
  • A recycling contractor then sells all collected shrink-wrapping to manufacturers that use recycled plastic in their products, reserving half of the profits for RIMTA.
According to Portsmouth, RI’s Pirate Cove Marina, this initiative enabled 3,000 pounds of plastic shrink-wrap to be repurposed into a wide variety of toys and other consumer goods. Interestingly, enthusiasm for recycling this easily reusable material must be catching on, because local businesses that use a great deal of shrink-wrap for other various purposes are beginning to formulate their own recycling programs based on the landmark efforts of RIMTA.