Since fibreglass or glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) boatbuilding began in the late 1950s, there has been a steady accumulation of unrecyclable old hulls all over the yachting world, numbering in the millions. Some will be crushed and buried in landfills; others are simply abandoned on land, often in boatyards or dealer service yards, or left as derelicts along waterways, where they can harm the environment.
In 2007-2008 in the UK several trials were undertaken through the BeAware project (Built Environment Action on Waste Awareness and Resource Efficiency) to incorporate GRP waste into pre-cast concrete and rubber products.
With grinding, dimensions of the small resulting pieces ranged from 1 in (2.5 cm) to powder. That material could then be then be integrated into cement and therewith, be used in constructions.
The clinker was ground to form cement. Alumina and silica also have cementlike properties in an alkaline environment and are typically present in Portland cement at about 25%, and in much higher proportions in cement alternatives from fly-ash and slag. Boron, which is found in most E-glass, can cause a reduction in early strength during the setting of cement, but as long as proportions are kept low it is not considered a problem.
In 2010, Fiberline Composites of Middelfart, Denmark, a manufacturer of fibreglass and carbon fibre profiles signed a contract with two companies: Zajons in Germany, which specializes in converting waste to alternative fuels for industry and Holcim (Germany), subsidiary of the world leading cement manufacturer from Switzerland.
Under the contract, surplus fibreglass from Fiberline’s production in Denmark will be shipped south for use as a key constituent of cement. This breakthrough soon came to be used in other European countries, with an initial 10,000 hulls processed and recycled as part of several national and multinational marine industry programs.
Researchers at Windsheim University in the Netherlands have been testing out the re-use of such material to make piling sheets.
More recently both initiatives have begun in Canada and the USA. Transport Canada is financing Jeosal Materials Research Corporation working with Queen’s University at Kingston, Ontario, under the Canadian Plastics Innovation Challenge to develop a possible solution for recycling fibreglass.
In New York State, the Rhode Island Marine Trade Association (RIMTA) has launched a Fiberglass Vessel Recycling Pilot Project, partnering with local boatyards for dismantling and crushing 22 to 33 tons (20 to 30 tonnes) of fiberglass for use by cement industry partners in South Carolina. While it is important to note that the RIFVR Pilot Project is just taking its nascent steps, if things go well, the project could eventually be rolled out regionally and nationally.
What you can do: Tell coastal and estuary authorities that they can now recycle abandoned fibre-glass hulls.
Tomorrow’s solution: recycling old wind turbine blades
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