In Europe, around 2 million tonnes of boat hulls are waiting for a disposal solution. Environmental regulatory pressure is becoming extreme as the European Union extends the obligation for manufacturers to find an end-of-life solution for their products. In France, a world leader in recreational boat building—and a country where 200,000 tonnes of waste boat hulls await treatment—this obligation was applied to boat builders in 2019.
So it isn’t a surprise that the French government has taken the lead in boat recycling and has organized the world’s first state-level boat deconstruction program. With the collection and dismantling of end-of-life boats funded through taxes on new boats and a yearly registration tax, the Association for Eco-Responsible Yachting (APER) has 30 boat deconstruction centers across the country. At these sites, the metal components (engines, keel, mast etc.) and the wood and fabric elements (interior fittings) are removed for resale or recycling, and then the boat is “depolluted”—meaning toxic elements like oil, gas, and batteries are removed and disposed of sustainably. The only remaining piece of the boat with no recycling solution—the “missing link” for the APER—has been the fiberglass hulls, which up to recently have been crushed or shredded, and then either landfilled or burnt in cement factory kilns for energy.
An exclusive agreement was signed between Composite Recycling and APER at the Paris Boat show in 2022 for the recycling the boat hulls. From 2024, APER will finally be able to offer the full recycling solution to boat owners and “close the loop” on boat recycling in France.