The question of how to address the end of life of boats has been an issue for many years. The RYA is engaging with a range of groups to represent the interests of boaters as solutions are sought. The issue is becoming pressing due to the rapid increase in the manufacture of fibreglass boats in the 1970s and 1980s, which are now reaching the end of their useful lives.
Most of our policy work in this area is undertaken through the European Boating Association (EBA). We are active on a European Commission panel whose objective is to introduce a directive for disposal of boats, similar to that already in place for cars.
Key technical issues:
The Wider Problem
This is a composites industry problem, not just a boating one. Estimates for 2025 from the European Composites Industry Association suggest that between 10 and 15% of the composites waste stream will be from marine industry sources.
The Legacy Fleet
Exciting new materials will eventually enable new boats to be fully recycled but, given the longevity of vessels, we need to address the boats built in the ‘70s and ‘80s now.
Contamination of hulls by antifoul, oils, some gelcoats etc. makes preparation for recycling or re-use more challenging for our sector.
We need to find a solution that represents a true circular economy, rather than burning old hulls for energy recovery or cement manufacture, two of the current disposal routes. Current options reduce impact but do not represent truly sustainable solutions.
Potential Technical Solutions and Current Research