One day before the world's largest boat equipment trade show kicks off in the Netherlands, a large group of marine industry professionals gathered at the massive Amsterdam RAI convention complex to start what they hope will become a global dialogue on recycling old boats.
"There are at least 40 million recreational boats in the world,' says Peter Franklin, one of the organizers of the Future of Yacht Recycling Conference. "If one percent of them reach end-of-life each year, that's 400,000 boats headed for landfill. And that figure is only going to increase as a result of the boom years in the 1970s and 1980s, when boats were built in huge volumes. They're now approaching, or exceeding 40 years of age. We're facing a big problem if we don't start doing something about it.'
Suggesting that the recreational boating industry can follow the lead of the auto sector and design its products so they can be more easily broken down into reusable components, Franklin hopes the conference will start a global dialogue on this issue. "What we don't want is for government to come in and just put another tax on boats to offset their eventual disposal cost,' said Franklin. "It will be better for everyone if the boat industry takes the lead on this.'
Franklin says that while boat recycling operations in Japan, Sweden, Canada and France have met varying levels of success, it will take a global effort to make boat recycling a profitable proposition. "Right now no one is making any money at this. By bringing regulators and the marine industry together to explore potential solutions, the hope is that we can develop technologies to recycle fiberglass boats more economically.'
Beyond the potential business opportunity, Franklin sees the need to develop a global recycling effort essential to the long-range profitability of the boat industry. "Boat builders need to pay attention to this issue, because the next generation of buyers, the next big demographic group of consumers, are more environmentally-aware than any that have gone before them,' said Franklin. "Boat manufacturers who take the initiative to produce environmentally-sustainable, recyclable products will resonate with that consumer.'
About 70 delegates had pre-registered for the conference, with industry representatives from France, Sweden, Germany, the United States, Canada, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Denmark and the UK attending. Among the speakers who participated in panel discussions were Willem Dekker , Chairman of the European Boating Association, and Arie de Jong, CEO of ARN, the largest auto recycling and waste management consultants in the Netherlands.
The one day Future of Yacht Recycling Conference was run in conjunction with the 2015 Marine Equipment Trade Show (METS) at the Amsterdam RAI conference and exhibition centre.