Marine News from the Great Lakes

Do You Handle Shrink Wrap The Right Way?

Published: Wednesday, August 28, 2019
By: Norm Schultz

Literal tons of protective shrink wrap covers are torn off boats coming out of winter storage every year across the Midwest. It’s a superb material for protecting our vessels from the ravages of northern winters. But, it also means huge amounts of this plastic could end up in our already rapidly-filling landfills and take hundreds of years to degrade if not handled right.

On average, each vessel yields about 25 to 35 pounds of shrink wrap. So it’s more timely than ever that a video produced by Ohio’s Clean Marinas Program is available that shows boat owners, as well as marinas, how to prepare boat shrink wrap for recycling in six easy steps.

Actually, Ohio’s emphasis on recycling shrink wrap isn’t new. Since 2006, the Buckeye State’s recycling program has kept 2.3 million pounds of low-density polyethylene shrink wrap out of landfills, with much of the material being turned into highway guardrail spacer blocks, among other items.

So, here are some step-by-step instructions on how to prepare shrink wrap for proper disposal, which means recycling.
  1. Start at the bottom: Cut and remove all bellybands at the bottom of the shrink wrap. Bellybands are the strapping that runs under the hull that keeps the shrink wrap from lifting off the boat.
  2. Make four cuts: Starting at the stern, make a vertical cut, about six inches tall, on the edge of the shrink wrap cover, which will loosen the bottom perimeter of the wrap. Continue to make three more vertical cuts on the perimeter at port and starboard midships and at the bow. You should now have four cuts.
  3. Pull out the nylon: Remove the four pieces of nylon perimeter banding from the sleeve at the bottom perimeter of the shrink wrap.
  4. Cut up, gently: Working from the stern to the bow, begin cutting up the wrap into smaller sizes for removal. Start about six to eight feet up and make a downward vertical cut on the boat’s centerline toward the bottom of the stern, being careful to not make contact with the boat. Then, moving forward on both sides of the boat, make additional cuts to remove the wrap in reasonably-sized pieces.
  5. Think clean, clean, clean: As the pieces of shrink wrap come off the boat, be careful not to contaminate them with dirt, oil, stones, or other contaminants. It’s important that all nylon strapping, banding, buckles, plastic vents, door zippers, or any other materials attached to the wrap are removed and disposed of separately. If, by chance, you’ve patched your wrap with a tape that can’t be removed, cut that portion out and dispose of it separately.
  6. Roll and dispose: Roll up the pieces of shrink wrap so they can be easily managed by recyclers. You can cut off a long narrow piece of wrap (sometimes called “film”) to tie up the bundles — but again, use only shrink wrap material to do this; avoid twine, duct tape or rope. Next, place the bundles in your marina yard or boat club’s designated shrink wrap recycling area and you’re done.

Make your plans, bookmark this article, and dispose of your shrinkwrap PROPERLY next year!

To find out how to recycle shrink wrap in your area, check to see if there is a local Clean Marina program or marine trades association. Or, a shrink wrap manufacturer, Dr. Shrink, also offers a REBAG shrink wrap recycling kit for $45 that contains a 30- by 50-inch clear bag with cover-removal directions printed on it, a closure device for the bag, and a prepaid FedEx shipping label. 

In Ohio, the Clean Marinas Program is a proactive partnership with the Ohio Sea Grant College Program, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Lake Erie Marine Trades Association, the BoatUS Educational Foundation, among other public and private sector partners.

This article first appeared in the Summer Issue (Jul/Aug) 2019 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.

tags: Boating 101, Environmental Impact

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