Boat Storage…Hidden Truths and Environmental Concerns

As fall approaches in Ontario, boating families are once again considering storage options for the family boating investment. Many families turn to shrink warp storage systems as they can be less costly and in many cases, this is all the local marina offers.

There is loads of graphic information on the web on the inherent dangers of shrink wrap storage. I have personally advocated to the Ontario Marine Operators Association that this organization should take a stand against this practice for two important reasons:

  1. Everyone in this industry is aware that this type of boat storage can consistently result in premature aging of upholstery interiors, higher corrosion rates, consistent mold issues that result in lower retained values over time and shorter lifespans. Toxic black molds is a major health concern.
  2. Shrink wrap systems are just an environmental nightmare.

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 of which 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. Alberta is advocating to become a plastic recycling center for Canada in the future. Further, Canada intends to add plastics to a list of toxic items under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act which is a requirement to ban them.

Shrink wrap or boat storage wrap is a single use plastic!

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

If Huntsville Marine, which presently manages the storage requirements for some 600 plus boats Marine were to revert to exclusively shrink warp systems, the totals would 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.

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

Some 20 years ago Huntsville Marine recognized that shrink warp storage was not sustainable or ecologically sound business practice and made a decision. Huntsville Marine then began a process of acquisition for the required necessary lands and buildings for maximum winter protection programs with a reduced environmental footprint. Presently, the plastics industry is trying to develop a biodegradable shrink wrap as there are aware of the recycling issue.

Biodegradable wrap would not significantly reduce the present high waste situation just reduce decomposition from some 200 years to a more sustainable numbers of years. The problem still remains on the high carbon footprint in the manufacture of, transportation to point of use and then transportation to point of disposal/recycling of plastics films.

I absolutely shutter when I see rows of shrink wrapped boats along Highway 11 in a constant road salt bath or other locations where shrink wrap boats are lined up in grassy fields. There is one storage provider in Muskoka which is essentially 100 % shrink warp field storage operation that has placed a mice/critter exclusion in its storage agreement. I was informed recently that a 1000 unit wrap storage operation in Ontario is 100% landfill disposal. 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.

Years ago, when 2 stroke marine engines and carburetor operated sterndrives were the norm, a high level of service expertise was not a requirement and 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.

As a major Ontario boat dealer, Huntsville Marine can be tasked with engine or boat warranty request for service records and or storage information before any approval request is granted by the builder. Lack of the specified service requirements being completed on time with available supporting documentation including replacement of designated fluids and filters on specified schedules plus instances of improper storage can result in a warranty denial situation. All marine engines require annual service. This can be done in the fall at time of storage or spring at time of relaunch.

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 Coming 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!


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 3 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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