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Boat Shrink Wrap Alternatives

Marinas, boat storage facilities, and boat owners can reduce the plastic waste in the world by eliminating or recycling boat shrink wrap. Boats need protection in the winter season or when being stored, so there needs to be a solution. But one-time shrink wrapping can be very harmful to the environment. Switching to non-plastic alternatives and eliminating plastic wraps all together is the best option, but reusing plastic wraps or recycling them will help as well. This article we will explore and describe several practical eco-friendly boat storage solutions and boat shrink wrap alternatives.

Harmful Effects of Boat Shrink Wrap

An average sized boat can use up to 15 pounds of plastic shrink wrap. Estimates suggest that there are around 17 million recreational boats in the US alone. If all boat owners shrink wrapped their boats and didn’t recycle their shrink wrap afterwards, this would cause upwards of 250 million pounds of plastic waste. The other downside of shrink wrap is that it can be quite expensive because it usually has to be done professionally and is not a simple DIY. In addition to cost and its environmental impact, if your boat is under shrink wrap for too long, mildew can build up making it more difficult to clean the boat once you remove the shrink wrap.

Four Eco-Friendly Alternatives to One-Time Boat Shrink Wrap

Shrink wrapping can be cheaper for a one year application but expensive over the long haul. Not to mention, the plastic waste it creates is a major environmental burden. There are four main alternatives to shrink wrapping your boat:

  • Reusable boat tarps
  • Non-plastic boat coverings (canvas, fabric and acrylic)
  • Indoor storage
  • Reusing existing shrink wrap

Boat Tarps

Tarpaulins, or “tarps,” are often the right solution if your boat is durable and not under severe weather conditions. The permanent covers are reusable, so the cost is spread over many years of winterizing and storage. There are plenty of guides online on how to make sure your boat is properly covered and will not be exposed to winter elements. Tarps are a simple investment and easy to use. Higher quality heavy duty tarps are extremely durable and will last for generations if maintained properly.

Boat Tarp Materials

Traditional tarp materials include canvas, polyester, nylon, polypropylene, or polyethylene. Each material has its own strengths and weaknesses. Polyethylene is the most water resistant or waterproof. Today’s high quality canvas or nylon tarps are also water resistant. Tarps come in a variety of thicknesses as well. Carefully evaluate your seasonal needs and the level of  durability you will need to withstand the rigors of the boat storage. Flimsy cheap tarpaulins simply aren’t going to cut it.

Canvas Boat Coverings

Canvas covering for boats are very practical, can save you money and obviously cut down on plastic waste. Canvas provides the boat with excellent ventilation over the winter to minimize damage and doesn’t make heaps of plastic trash. You can cover the boat yourself but having extra hands will help. It can be awkward for one person to deal with steel framing and heavy canvas.

There are plenty of companies that sell canvas boat covers including West Marine and National Boat Covers. Many companies even customize the cover so it will have a tailored fit for your boat.

Premium Fabric and Acrylic Boat Covers

If you own expensive luxury boats, then you don’t want to settle for “good enough”. You may want to consider Sunbrella. This fabric brand is known for quality, durability and comfort. It provides excellent UV protection, fade resistance, mold and mildew resistance and is easy to clean. Outdura is another brand to consider. It is made from solution-dyed acrylic fabric that is water repellent and mildew resistant. It blocks out 98% of the sun’s harmful rays.

Indoor Storage, A Very Eco-Friendly Option

While indoor storage is a sure way to avoid any potential storage waste and it eliminates the hassle of wrestling with tarps, it can be more expensive than outdoor storage and shrink wrap. Indoor storage options vary from place to place. Some self-storage facilities such as ExtraSpace Storage offer garages for storing recreational vehicles and boats. You may even be able to find indoor storage on Neighbor.

Reuse shrink wrap

If you are trying to save money, lower your environmental impact and you don’t have the budget for expensive permanent covers, another option could be to reuse your shrink wrap. If you are planning on reusing your shrink wrap, it is important to install it more loosely the first time. Since shrink wrap is installed by applying heat to tighten the material, applying it too tight will make it difficult to remove and salvage. Keep this in mind when hiring people to wrap your boat. If you are interested in shrink wrapping your boat yourself, watch this video to learn how.

How to Recycle Shrink Wrap

There are many companies that offer shrink wrap recycling services. Here’s a short how-to video showing boat owners the easiest way to remove shrink wrap from a boat for recycling and how to clean and bundle it properly for recycling. Many states now have programs in place to help boaters recycle their old shrink wrap.

It is important for boaters and marina managers to know that shrink wrap recycling dumpsters must be separate from normal trash and recycling dumpsters. To educate boaters, clearly mark each dumpster and make announcements regarding shrink wrap recycling procedures.

Certify Your Sustainable Marina and Boat Storage Business

Whether you’re a marina owner, run boat rentals or boat storage facilities, it’s valuable to earn a third-party green business certification. A green business or sustainability certification allows you to measure and benchmark your sustainability performance, set and track goals and share your progress with stakeholders. Clickable, online seals like the one offered by Green Business Bureau serves as a badge of verification, showcasing your commitment and gaining the trust of potential customers, partners and employees. Most boaters care about and understand the importance of preserving the waters and the environment, so marketing your commitment as a green business will align with boaters’ values and hopefully inspire other companies to be better too.

About the Author

Nathan DeJongh

GBB Green Ambassador
Nate DeJongh is a content writer for Green Business Bureau who is passionate about exploring how companies can adapt to become better for the environment. Nate is currently pursuing a degree in Finance and Political Science at the University of Connecticut. Outside of his work and studies, Nate loves to spend his time boating, fishing and hiking.

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