A problem from luxury

It is Saturday and again the news station NOS (www.nos.nl) brings an interesting piece. Going back to my youth, I would love to walk around the marinas. I would admire the boats and their shapes. Those owners, so proud, they had their ‘yacht’. Boating in the Netherlands had always been big, now almost 40 years later thousands of boats are there. Neglected and in poor condition. Those who bought metal boats can sell it as scrap and end up with a few coins; those who bought polyester now own boats that are in a state where they are floating environmental disasters. These boats will not degrade; they are there to remain a pox on the Dutch landscape and especially marina’s from where they have no place to go, the people are often gone, many in no financial position to fess up to their choices. So now we get the issue that a fund needs to be created to clean up the mess others made. Government funding that would be needed to clean up the mess of these owners who claimed (or once were) wealthy.

So what gives?

Well, the question becomes what to do next. This is not an area of expertise for me, to the next part could be a well-intended effort to find a solution that is just plain BS (for that my apologies).

I have done a little reading and see that in some cases plastic bottles are recycled into polyester the clothing industry uses. So, if that is the case and agreeing that this initially could cost the government something, is it not an idea to crunch a boat into smaller parts and then process it into something better? Even crunching it into flakes might make this marina based solution into a less useless obstruction.

If you think that this is not an issue, or a rich person’s issue, then think again. Even though due to the size of the Netherlands (a really small nation), this nation has well over 200 marina’s, making this more than just a small problem. But what is involved?

1. Disown these neglected boats. Not unlike a car when it is no longer road worthy, if a vessel is no longer water worthy in its current state, then the owner would need to receive a writ, stating that it is fixed within a certain time, or the owner will be disowned, yet not financially disowned, so whatever loans he has out there on the boat, they will remain. The owner will get a processing fee (it is not up to a government to foot the bill for environmental hazards) and what was formerly known as a boat will be removed.

2. How to process the boats? To be honest, that is the true issue. Burning is not an option because of the toxic fumes (which are also not that environmental friendly). A boat usually will be made of polyester (the bulk/hull), aluminium (mast), metal (wires) and wood (sometimes deck, mostly internal parts). The hull is actually the big thing. That needs to be crunched into little parts. Whether we can dump the entire boat into some giant nibbler, or first manually remove parts as much as possible and then nibble it to splinters is part of this consideration.

3. What to do with the polyester. To just assume that what works for plastic bottles, would work for boats is just crazy. There are numerous versions of polyesters, which will mean that they might not be that mixable.

So what are the solutions my little brain could come up with in 30 minutes?

Option 1.

Can the polymers be liquefied and then turned into some tile, which could be used as some kind of insulation? Can they be used to be reprocessed into some other usable plastic (like bags or other usable items), especially if these are items that could be revenue making to some degree to counter the costs of processing this.

Option 2.

Can they be processed in some form to become collectible s that even not bio degradable, they could be used as some kind of foundation that even though not bio-degradable, they could be ‘dumped’ into natural places as they would not hurt nature and only take up space.

Before you attack option 2, consider that a thousand non usable boats are a blight on nature as is, to be able to bury them in a minimum size (providing we can prove it will not harm nature) is not the worst idea. The worst idea is to not do anything about it, which is what happens now.

In an age of such bad economy, this might actually prove to be a point of light. This is a niche market that has potential and seems to be in non-existence for now. Even if this is the most visible in the Netherlands, due to a largely lack of size, yet they have a massively sized marina market. Beyond this there is France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece and a few more places where this, even to a smaller extent might be an issue.

The Netherlands do have one advantage. They have Wageningen University, which is one of the most renowned universities when it comes to environmental studies. When it comes to Chemistry, there are the Dutch Universities of Leiden, Rotterdam, Delft and Amsterdam. So, if a solution would be possible, then the Netherlands will be able to solve the issue that is most visible to them and create a possible new European market in the process.

An environmental issue that could help start a ‘new’ economy, who would have thunk it?



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