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‘Thousands’ of abandoned polyester boats in Belgian waterways
A pilot project in Nieuwpoort on the Belgian coast could offer hope that thousands of abandoned boats along Belgium’s waterways could be recycled. The country’s coastal and inland waterways are full of abandoned boats made of polyester.
The privately owned boats are expensive to get hauled off and so are left to slowly decay. The problem has been flagged up in recent years by both the Netherlands and France, who carried out counts. The Dutch have about 25,000 such boats, and the French some 50,000.
Experts put the number of abandoned boats made of the material at about 140,000 across Europe. While Belgium has no official figures, an investigation by public broadcaster VRT reports that there are ‘thousands’.
While wood and metal boats have more value to haulage companies because of the price paid for materials, polyester brings no return, generally being burned with other waste. That makes haulage prices higher, and so owners who are now elderly or who no longer have time for their boats simply leave them unattended in marinas or abandon them on rivers and canalsides.
Marinas sometimes haul abandoned boats onto shore, where they are then left to dilapidate. According to a spokesperson at the Nieuwpoort marina, sometimes a boat owner dies, and the family has no idea what to do about the boat or don’t want to pay to have it hauled away. After decades, the boats are simply forgotten. Nieuwpoort alone has 50 old boats in dry dock.
Some countries have taken steps to tackle the problem, none more so than Belgium’s neighbour to south, which launched the Association pour la Plaisance Eco-Responsable specifically to recycle boats made of polyester. So far, France has recycled 2,500 of the boats.
Nieuwpoort is now working with waste management agency Ovam on a pilot project to recycle its abandoned polyester boats. It is in its infancy, but if successful, it could provide a solution for the entire country.
Photo courtesy VRT