Sea Grant looks for opportunities to reduce waste from composite boatbuilding.

By Melissa Wood
Courtesy of Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

In an effort to recycle “dead” fiberglass boats, the Rhode Island Sea Grant program is hoping to partner with com­panies like Geocycle, a subsidiary of Holcim, that burn industrial waste for energy.

Last year PBB investigated several potential solutions to reduce waste from composite boatbuilding and to dispose of the pile of unwanted used composite boats. Those included developments in carbon fiber recycling, and the introduction of materials like thermoplastic resins, which are easier to recycle than thermosets (see “The Unresolved Afterlife of Composite-Built Boats,” PBB No. 163).

Though promising for the future of boat manufacturing, many of these methods don’t actually address the current pile of dead boats and composites manufacturing waste. An exception is the work of Dennis Nixon and Evan Ridley of Rhode Island Sea Grant. They’ve been looking to emulate the European wind industry’s method for getting rid of its composite waste: sending it to cement factories to burn as fuel.

After the waste is burned in the kiln, leftover ash is mixed into new cement. That mixture doesn’t degrade the cement, which happens when you mix ground-down composites into new cement.

In a recent phone conversation, Ridley said they were making progress in developing this recycling program. Most recently, he sent samples of hull and deck sourced from an old Cape Dory 22, courtesy of Bristol Marine in Bristol, Rhode Island, and virgin hull molding scrap from USWatercraft in Warren, Rhode Island (see “On Hallowed Ground,” PBB No. 147), to Geocycle; a subsidiary of the cement manufacturer Holcim, it provides waste-derived fuel for the company’s cement plants.

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