Boat Storage…Hidden Truths and Environmental Concerns

Leaves are on the ground! The family boat needs to be winter protected. Are shrink wrap systems the best choice? Does shrink wrap provide maximum winter protection for my families boating investment? Firstly, many see wrap storage as a less costly acceptable method. Secondly, they are of the opinion that it will do the job. My local marina says its okay. Unfortunately in many areas, it is what is done by marinas or side of the road operators.

Shrink Warp Storage Concerns

Did you know that there is loads of graphic information on the web on the inherent dangers of shrink wrap storage? The Ontario Marine Operators Association should take a stand against this practice for two important reasons:

  1. This industry is aware that this type of boat storage can result in premature aging of upholstery. Also, higher corrosion rates of all engine components and wiring. Shorter lifespans for upholstery and lets add higher corrosion rates. Undesirable finish chaffing of exterior fiberglass. Chaffing of wakeboard towers as well as interior damage due to high temperature application process. All these negative consequences of wrap storage can reduce trade values.
  2. Shrink wrap systems are just an environmental nightmare!

Plastic Waste and the Environment

In the week of October 5th, 2020, the Federal Government of Canada made an announcement with respect to the outright banning of single use plastic items. The government release went like this….

Canadians throw away some 3 million tones of plastics each and every year! Even with recycling programs in place, some 90% or 2.7 million tones go directly to landfill disposal. At present, there are very few options for recycling of plastic in Canada. Further, Canada intends to add plastics to a list of toxic items under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. When implemented it becomes a requirement to ban them.

Shrink wrap or boat storage wrap is a single use plastic! That is not good!

Only an estimated 5.4% plastic shrink wrap and other LDPE and LLDPE (#4 plastic) is recovered in the U.S. each year – a ridiculously low number

Huntsville Marine a Case Study

If Huntsville Marine presently manages the storage requirements for some 600 plus boats. Huntsville Marine makes a decision to revert to exclusively shrink warp systems. The plastic waste totals would then be… 10,800 lbs. or 4896 kg of pure waste (based on an average 20′ size) .

If we use the number of 6000 boats ( average 20′ length to wrap) just in Ontario ( more than 10,000 boats require winter storage in Ontario alone), the amount of plastic wrap waste to landfill approaches 108,000 Lbs. or 48960 kg. This is a staggering amount of waster that takes century’s to decompose.

Potential of over 100,000 LBs or 50,000 KG of plastic film waste annually

Continued Use of Plastic Film for Boat Storage is Not Sustainable

Some 20 years ago Huntsville Marine recognized that shrink warp storage was not sustainable or ecologically sound business practice. Firstly, Huntsville Marine then built a business plan to effect change. Then, a process of acquisition for required desirable lands. Flat land with great drainage, easily accessible on paved roads and no trees or grass for the critters! We have secured two properties and a total of 25 acres.

Presently, the plastics industry is trying to develop a biodegradable shrink wrap as they are aware of the recycling issue and its increasing recognition. Inevitability, market awareness will result in the end of shrink wrap.

Biodegradable Plastic Wrap…Option?

Unfortunately, biodegradable wrap would not significantly reduce the present high waste situation. First, it would result in the decomposition cycle reducing from the present 200years plus to somewhat to be determined less. The present extremely high carbon footprint remains. We start with pressurized Natural Gas moved by pipeline across the country. Then it has to get to the plastic pellet plant. Next is conversion to plastic sheet at another plant. Then moved on the highway to the distributer. Three more steps yet on the carbon trail. On the highway by truck to the marina for use. Removal in the spring and pickup to the waste sorting plant. Down the highway again to the dump for the next 2 centuries.

Just Where is Your Boat Stored?

picturesque dry grassy meadow in countryside at sundown
Photo by Vitória Lago on Pexels.com

I absolutely shutter when I see rows of shrink wrapped boats along Highway 11! Consequently this location or any situation of next to a busy highway…is bad in the winter months. A constant continuous road salt bath! Or then there is the wrapped boats lined up in the fields like above. Acres of grass just waiting to be bailed for animal forage. Meanwhile the squirrels and other critters are having a party. Is there a house for rent sign on your boat?

Shrink Wrap Boat Storage

Is Wrap an Environmental Sound Practice?

Presently, there is one storage provider in Muskoka which is essentially 100 % shrink wrap field storage operation. That location has placed a mice/critter exclusion in its storage agreement. Recently I was informed about a storage location that is 100% landfill disposal. Also in another recent conversation, the storage provider in Ontario, cannot find a company to handle the recycling of the spent shrink warp.

The Marine Industry Needs To Environmentally Adjust

The marine industry needs to do better! Dealers need to provide increased environmental stewardship. As a boat owner you have a part in demanding more environmental responsibility from marinas and storage providers.

Qualifications of Provider

Years ago, 2 stroke marine engines and carburetor operated sterndrives were the norm. Decades ago, a high level of marine service expertise was not a requirement. As a result, everyone tried to get into boat storage and simple marine service. There is no legal requirement in Ontario to have any training to open a marine service and storage operations. With the complexity of marine engines today and the requirement for detailed service to maintain warranty, unqualified marine agents can be a problem to your marine investment. As a Mercury/Mercruiser dealer in order to maintain our dealership, we have specified service technician training requirements on an annual basis.

Are you asking your service or storage provider about there training and service certifications? Where is your boat being stored? Who is maintaining the storage boats during the winter months? Some storage providers close up after storage and are not available again till spring. Who is maintaining and watching over your boat?

Qualifications

As a major Ontario boat dealer, Huntsville Marine can be tasked with a warranty request. Service records plus storage information may be required before the request is accepted by the boat builder. All specified service requirements completed on time? Supporting documentation including replacement of designated fluids and filters on specified schedules plus instances of improper storage is required. All marine engines require annual service. This can be done in the fall at time of storage or spring at time of relaunch. If you choose to do the maintenance yourself…keep detailed records and receipts.

Toxic Antifreeze and Boat Storage

The other very important environmental aspect of boat storage that must be addressed is:

Toxic environmental water shed problems with both ethylene and propylene based antifreeze chemicals. Huntsville Marine has been requested by the Ministry of The Environment not to use glycol antifreeze agents during boat storage operations. A very high number of marine operations and road side storage operations use drums of this product. Glycol agents are required to be collected before introduction and properly recycled before gaining entrance into the watershed which includes discharge on your cottage property.

Wake Up Call For Marine Industry

Those of us involved in the marine industry, I expect very shortly, will not have the opportunity to continue to shrink wrap boats due to the high negative environmental loading. The marine, snowmobile, recreational vehicle industry is not at present carbon friendly. I believe we have a duty to address this issue and to present alternatives that reduce our environmental impact now! If the industry quickly moves away from both plastic storage wrap and glycol chemical storage agents…we have or will have made a strong statement!

THE RIGHT THING MATTERS!

About Tom D. Welsh

As a mater of disclosure, the author Tom Welsh is the owner/General Manager of Huntsville Marine since 1986. Huntsville Marine operates one of the largest marine centers in Northern Muskoka. Encompassing properties with over 30 acres of dedicated marine retail, service, storage and dockage operations.  Boater’s Chat is one of the largest read independent (non boat builder or marine propulsion supplier) marine retail and service blogs in North America.

Huntsville Marine represents the following boat brands and marine propulsion:

Princecraft Pontoons, Fishing boats and Deck Boats

Manitou Pontoon Boats

Monterey Bowriders

Campion Boats

SeaFox Boats

Mercury Outboards & Mercruiser Sterndrives V drives

Yamaha Outboards

Volvo Penta Sterndrives

Loadrite, E Z Loader and Shorland’r Boat Trailers

Huntsville Marine is a 5 Star Certified Boating Ontario Clean Marine Program Dealership

Huntsville Marine is a National Marine CSI Award Winner for North American excellence in new boat purchase customer satisfaction.

Huntsville Marine in 2020 storage operations will be 94% shrink wrap free storage. Huntsville Marine has and continues to invest significant capital in the required lands and buildings to strive to
our object of 100% plastics wrap free by 2026.

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