Shrink Wrap Recycling: Easier Than You Think

It may not be the least-expensive way to protect your pride and joy from a long winter’s hibernation, but having your boat shrink wrapped during layup time does offer just about the best protection you can get from snow, ice, and other winter problems that conspire to damage it. If you’re lucky, though, you’ve removed that expanse of white plastic and are getting ready to hit the water for that first run of the season any time now. But what’s the best thing to do with that huge piece of plastic that was covering your boat?

A photo of boats covered in shrink wrap.
All of that shrink wrap has to end up somewhere. We’re just hoping that somewhere isn’t in a landfill. Photo courtesy of Clarks Landing Sea Ray

Unfortunately, tossing it in the dumpster isn’t the correct answer to this question. With 13 million registered boats in the United States, it’s easy to see how shrink wrap covers from boats could cause a landfill crisis, even if only 25 percent of those registered boats get wrapped every year. Luckily, though, there are some solutions. Some require a little homework on your part, some are easy, but all of them are worthwhile.

Ask Your Marina or Boatyard, or Be Your Own Sleuth

While it didn’t used to be commonplace, many larger marinas and boatyards now are able to facilitate the recycling of boatyard customers’ and slip holders’ used shrink wrap for recycling, especially those facilities that participate in a state-monitored “Clean Marina” or similar program. The material is highly recyclable and more than 900 tons of it has been recycled in the Northeast alone since 2007.

There are also shrink wrap installers who offer shrink wrap recycling services—I did a simple Google search for “shrink wrap recycling, Maryland” for my state and was served a long list of recycling programs and services, some private with a charge, but many were free. I did the same search for many coastal states with the same level of success. Likelihood is, you will, too.

Bags of used shrink wrap await recycling.
Bags of used shrink wrap await recycling.

While your curbside recycling program probably won’t take your shrink wrap (hardly any do), many landfills with recycling services will. They do require that you remove any non-recyclable materials embedded in the wrap (such as straps, zippers, doors, or vents), but are usually happy to take it otherwise.

Reuse or Repurpose

Another solution to the problem is attempting to stretch a couple of seasons out of your shrink wrap cover by reusing it. Sure, it’s not going to be as good a cover solution for that second season (and especially the third), but if you remove your shrink wrap very carefully, you can generally reuse it with some level of success for at least one season.

If you’re creative, you can repurpose that plastic for all sorts of projects around your home. If you’ve ever purchased landscape fabric from a home store (the stuff you lay down before mulch to keep the weeds from popping up), you know it’s generally weak and easy to tear. Shrink wrap can be repurposed for your landscaping jobs by simply punching a bunch of holes in the plastic to allow water to seep through before laying mulch on top. I’ve even used it to line my raised garden beds to isolate the planting soil from the pressure-treated lumber the beds are made of, and cut it into shape to wrap up my patio furniture for the winter.

So, go forward, stewards of the earth, and recycle. It’s good for the planet, and can be good on your wallet, too.

Written by: Gary Reich

Gary Reich is a Chesapeake Bay-based freelance writer and photojournalist with over 25 years of experience in the marine industry. He is the former editor of PropTalk Magazine and was the managing editor of the Waterway Guide. His writing and photography have been published in PassageMaker Magazine, Soundings, Fly Fishing in Salt Waters, Yachting Magazine, and Lakeland Boating, among others.


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