Recreational Boat Recycling and Disposal

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Recreational boats such as pleasure craft have long been a source of family adventures and rich memories. Unfortunately, they can also be a headache when it is time for proper disposal or recycling. Fiberglass is an extremely durable and long-lasting material which is a benefit to the boater, but eventually turns into a disposal challenge. 

Responsible Boating and Proper Vessel Disposal

There are many environmental hazards connected with aged vessels, which include used batteries, solvents and used oil.

Abandoning your vessel is not a responsible action, and neither is sinking it. These two disposal processes are typically illegal because they can result in navigational and environmental hazards on the waterways. In California, abandoning a vessel is punishable by a fine of up to $3,000. The good news is that in that state, there is also a voluntary Vessel-Turn-In Program, known as VTIP. This service is a no-cost alternative for recreational boat owners wishing to surrender an unwanted boat.  According to the program, it is as simple as "contacting a participating local agency and making arrangements to drop-off a boat.  You must be the registered owner and sign a release of interest in the boat." 

Vessel Disposal through Recycling

There are parts of the boat that can be dismantled resold or recycled. There are salvagers or part dealers that may take the old parts of your vessel, which they will refurbish and resell on the secondary market.

If you are lucky enough, you may find a dealer that will compensate you for the parts you can provide them. In most cases, the cost of dismantling the boat, recycling the parts and disposing of the hazardous materials will be deducted from the monetary worth of the boat’s usable parts. This is the best deal you could possibly get from your old recreational boat.

Additionally, metal parts or materials such as brass, aluminum or copper found on vessels can be sorted out and then recycled.

Recycling the composite hulls of old recreational boats has been problematic in that the material has little value. Traditionally, these composites end up being cut up and dumped, burned, or sunk deep into the water. Old hulls are increasingly shredded, with the material used for fuel or filler.

Boat Recycling Service Providers

Increasingly, responsible boat recycling services are being offered by the private sector. A quick online search reveals such service providers as,, or Kawartha Marine Check online for services in your area, or ask at your local marina.

New Systems for Recycling Composite Vessels

Recent scientific studies pertaining to the recycling of recreational boats suggest an effective alternative could be on its way. A new method has been discovered by researchers for separating composites – fiberglass and polyester - for future use.

Separating these two substances has not been possible until recently. The idea is to recycle and reuse the disassembled materials by effective application of technologies based on WSMC (Waste Sheet Molding) compound criteria.

In Italy, it has been proven that such technologies make it possible to obtain composite thermoplastic sheets by mixing different polymer types like EPS (polystyrene) or FRB.  The process will result in a high-performing thermocomposite material that can be easily recycled.

Another proposed solution, this time from Belgium, is to use a new technique that can turn composite wastes (polyester, fiberglass, epoxy, Bakelite, and polyurethane) into new raw materials. The process works by breaking down composite wastes and fiberglass waste and then grounding it into small granules. The substances will be dried out and combined, and the new virgin material will be blended with isocianate and polyole before being molded into new products.