Environmental Damage From Boat Storage Operations and Procedures

Shrink Wrap Boat Storage

Kind of a heavy title! Boating is not a carbon neutral actively…yes I said that!

As a recreational activity versus say golf are we any worse….no if you consider all the fuel used in maintenance of the coarse itself, fuel to get back and forth and all that fertilizer to make the coarse so pretty! Okay…we are all becoming more environmentally aware due to news coverage and we should all strive to reduce our carbon footprint and environmental impact. I am not saying we all need to start to stop driving, boating and vacations in the sunny south. The question is and at what cost can I be more of an environmental steward….or in other words have less negative environmental impact and still enjoy the outdoors through boating activities.

This article concentrates on boat storage operations and procedures and we will summer operations to another day and topic.

Winter or Offseason Boat Storage Environmental Impact

With regards to winter storage there are two main types of negative environmental impact.

  • Excessive unnecessary carbon expenditures to protect the marine investment.
  • Potentially negative impact on the watershed form the use of glycol antifreeze agents including so named or know as food grade or non toxic antifreeze.

Carbon Expenditure at Storage

Shrink wrap storage systems also know as plastic boat wrap presents a high carbon footprint expenditure in its attempt to mitigate winter environmental damage due to low temperatures, snow loading and or ice damage. Where is the carbon expenditure?

  • plastic films are usually natural gas based products transported over thousands of miles by high pressure pumping systems to a plastic manufacturing factory.
  • manufacturing the base plastic pellet has a high energy requirement. This process involves a large consumption of energy for heat and cooling for the extrusion machinery.
  • the base plastic pellet is normally shipped by diesel truck to a film manufacturer where additional energy is required to manufacture a plastic film.
  • Once the film is packaged it is then shipped by diesel truck to a wholesaler for distribution.
  • When purchased the film is shipped again by diesel truck to a marine facility.
  • At the winter storage facility the plastic film is applied utilizing propane heat with the release of large volumes of combustion by-products as well as plastic heat driven bi-prodcuts to the atmosphere.
  • In the spring the film is removed and one of two things occur. The film is discarded which has happened for many years to land fill or very few marinas actual spend the time and resources to recycle the plastic film.

Recycled plastic film goes to a recycling depot where it is converted back to a pellet like form to be further processed all of which consumed more energy and produces more of an unwanted carbon footprint.

Impact On Water Quality of Antifreeze Type Products

  1. Many marinas and persons winterizing marine engines choose to do so by a wet method utilizing and antifreeze type product. There are two basic types:
  2. Ethylene based automotive type antifreeze compounds.
  3. So called Polypropylene Non Toxic antifreeze compounds also know as RV Antifreeze.

If you Google the toxicity of these compounds this will alarm you with some of the information presented. Ethylene glycol in itself is considered poisonous to humans in the right dosage and can remain in the water table for up to 48 days. Polypropylene based products are widely used in cosmetics and in some instances food processing. Polypropylene has negative implications in waterways when gaining entrance as it can reduce oxygen levels for up to 30 days which can be fatal bad for aquatic life.

What Can I Do to Mitigate Environmental Impact of Boat Storage

It is very simple to reduce the carbon footprint and related chemical contamination problems associated with common winter storage procedures.

  1. Avoid shrink wrap or plastic film type storage process for your boat. High negative environmental impact and a poor method for preservation of the integrity of the marine unit. For those choosing plastic wrap type storage consider this…it takes 24 gallons of water to make 1 Lb. of plastic. For the average boat that is actually the consumption of 240 to 300 gallons of water.

  2. Avoid the use of antifreeze components request the use dry engine storage techniques.

  3. Choose to utilize inside storage systems.