Decarbonizing Boating Materials

Fiberglass (FG or FRP in Europe) has been the predominant material for both recreational and a significant portion of light commercial boatbuilding for many decades. It is a low maintenance, relatively inexpensive and highly durable,material. So durable in fact, that it’s decomposition half-life - except in direct sunlight - is generally measured in the 10’s of 1,000’s of years! However, FG/FRP in the water and/or sun begins to deteriorate in as little as 20 years and seldom lasts much longer than 50. FG/FRP boats are, unlike wooden boats, difficult to repair or restore. And the resin that makes up the bulk of the FG/FRP material, is overwhelmingly derived from petroleum, and thereby inherently high carbon. Furthermore, the embedded glass fibers make recycling extremely difficult and costly, so very little recycling of FG/FRP boats is done. As in buildings, extending the life and/or deeply retrofitting existing vessels creates the greenest vessels. And, there are some old and new ideas about alternative materials that can meet the use demands and simultaneous dramatically reduce the carbon. Let’s talk!