BoatU.S. Foundation Awards Grant to RI Fiberglass Vessel Recycling Pilot

The BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water is the latest organization to lend support to the Rhode Island Fiberglass Vessel Recycling (RIFVR) Pilot Project. The pilot, launched by RIMTA and R.I. Sea Grant,is exploring solutions for the sustainable disposal of fiberglass boats by dismantling and re-processing fiberglass hulls into cement as an alternative to landfill.

According to Evan Ridley of RIMTA, project manager of the pilot, the grant will be used to help spread the word about the project at a grassroots level, by supporting the creation of multi-media materials for marinas, boat yards, boat owners, and members of the R.I. marine trades.

“Working with local boating nonprofits like this enables us to focus on issues specific to local waterways,” said Alanna Keating, Director of Outreach for the BoatU.S. Foundation.

Although the RIFVR Pilot is a local Rhode Island project, the findings of this pilot could have national applications.

Rhode Island’s small size and limited landfill area was one of the sparks behind the creation of the RIFVR Pilot. Since the project’s launching in 2018, Ridley has travelled throughout the U.S. to share information about the project and has seen first-hand how other states are challenged by the same vexing issue.

“There is no sustainable infrastructure for the disposal of these abandoned, derelict and end-of-life fiberglass boats—and different states struggle with this issue for different reasons,” said Ridley.

While Rhode Island’s limited landfill area was an impetus to establishing the project in the Ocean State, hurricanes in places such as Florida and the Carolinas have rendered many boats derelict and in need of disposal.

According to Ridley, the next step in the RIFVR Pilot is to test a large volume of the fiberglass materials that have been collected in Rhode Island in a specialized cement kiln. That step is slated for 2019.

Once the RIFVR Pilot is completed, Ridley hopes the findings can serve as a blueprint other states can use to manage the glut of fiberglass boats launched between the 1970s and ‘90s that have reached their end of life. The processes being explored in the pilot, however, can potentially extend well beyond the disposal of boats and create solutions for how to reuse many types of fiberglass waste.

“We are continuing to answer critical questions surrounding the lifecycle of recreational boats and the sustainable reuse of fiberglass waste,” said Ridley. “Boats constructed with composite materials offer an incredible opportunity for our state to establish a new network for the collection and recycling of high-value waste derived from thousands of other composite-based products currently being landfilled.”

Since 1988, the BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water has awarded over $1.1 million in grants to fund projects that promote responsible boating on a local level.

For more background on the RIFVR Pilot Project, click here, or contact Evan Ridley at RIMTA (email / 401-396-9619).