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Recycled Shipwrecks

FRANCE—Hundreds of pleasure boats reach the end of their life each year all along the shorelines of France. According to the database made available by the Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service of the Navy (SHOM), the French public operator for statistics and figures for maritime and coastal geography, more than 4,700 boat wrecks rest on the seabed off the French coast, including 4,200 near the metropolitan shoreline.



Faced with this observation, Association pour la Plaisance Eco-Responsible (APER, known as the Association for Eco-Responsible Pleasure in English) has given itself the task of recovering end-of-life boats and recycling them. Wrecks and battered ship frames on the shores are no longer inevitable. So, since 2019, APER has dedicated itself to recycling boats. Initially created by the Federation of Nautical Industries (FIN) in 2009, the association mainly had an information role.


Many eco-organizations have surfaced, making it possible to organize the prevention and management of specific waste such as batteries and accumulators, paper, and electronic equipment.


Eighty percent of pleasure crafts were built before the 2000s, with an average lifespan of 30 to 40 years. The boats that qualify for recycling are pleasure boats from 8 to 75 feet registered in France. The owner can then contact the APER via the site to ask about discarding their vessel. The eco-organization is responsible for putting the boat owner in touch with a deconstruction center.


When a boat arrives at a deconstruction center, the focus is placed on three materials: metals, wood, and composites. The metals are separated and then grouped before being recycled. Depending on the wood’s quality, 50 percent will be recycled into chipboard. The wood of poor quality, which cannot go through the paneling process, is crushed, and goes into energy recovery. The product will supply cement factories, hot water, or electricity production plants. The third material is the most problematic. It is a composite, such as polyester or fiberglass. Unfortunately, the composites have no known pure recycling solution. Sixty percent of these composites go into energy recovery, and the remaining 40 percent are discarded.



France is the only country to construct and operate this kind of system. Since Sept. 2019, the eco-organization has deconstructed and recycled more than 4,000 pleasure boats, around 2,300 in 2021 alone.

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