Recycling program keeps boaters’ shrink wrap at work

Shrink-wrapped boats sit in storage. The wrap would previously sit in landfills. Now, it is recycled into a material used in guardrails.
Shrink-wrapped boats sit in storage. The wrap would previously sit in landfills. Now, it is recycled into a material used in guardrails.

As the outdoors around us goes green and snaps out of its prolonged winter slumber, the shrink wrap is coming off thousands of boats to begin the process of readying those craft for a summer on Lake Erie.

Shrink wrap is the material used to protect watercraft during the idle winter months, normally in an outdoors storage situation where snow and ice would otherwise accumulate inside the boat.

Large sheets of a heavy plastic, usually in bright blue or white, are stretched over the entirety of the boat and held in place on the hull with tape, and a heat gun is then used to shrink fit the cover to snuggly conform to the shape of the boat, keeping out damaging moisture.

Millions of pounds of that plastic shrink wrap used to be peeled off boats each spring and then get dumped in our landfills, gobbling up valuable space and remaining there for hundreds of years without significant decomposition.

But about eight years ago, Ohio Sea Grant helped develop a campaign through the Ohio Clean Marinas Program to begin collecting this shrink-wrap material and recycling it, keeping it out of the marina trash containers and, ultimately, out of the landfills.

Ohio Sea Grant is a statewide effort to support proper stewardship and understanding of Lake Erie and the Great Lakes via research, education, and outreach programs. Ohio Sea Grant is a coalition of the efforts of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the state of Ohio, and Ohio State University.

Ohio Clean Marinas partners with boat owners, marinas, and greenhouse operations to facilitate the recycling of the shrink-wrap plastic. Brenner 75 at Harrison's Marina on North Summit Street in Toledo serves as one of the key collection points in this recycling program.

“It is one of those projects that seems to work for everyone,” said Don Smith, owner of Brenner 75. “There’s an awful lot of this shrink wrap around in the spring, and this program finds a good use for all of that material.”

The used shrink wrap is bundled and stored at designated marina pickup sites along the lakeshore, and periodically it is collected by trucks from Mondo Polymer Technologies Inc. of Reno, Ohio, which is located on the Ohio River near Marietta.

Mondo Technologies converts the used shrink-wrap plastic into lightweight yet strong blocks that support highway guardrails.

“That’s a wise use of the material and an environmentally responsible thing to do,” Smith said. “The boaters seem to like the program, and we have our people sort it and bundle it to get it ready for pickup.”

Sarah Orlando, who directs the Ohio Clean Marinas program from the ODNR’s Office of Coastal Management in Sandusky, said the response to the shrink-wrap recycling program has been outstanding.

Since it started as a pilot effort in 2006, the Ohio Shrink Wrap Program has grown each year. In 2012, the program collected more than 300,000 pounds of shrink-wrap plastic for recycling, and since its inception, the project has put more than 2 million pounds of the plastic into Mondo’s facility, where close to 300,000 highway guardrail blocks have been made from the used material.

“Once they are aware of the program, I think boaters want to take part. They want to see this plastic used for something worthwhile,” Orlando said while speaking at a symposium about Lake Erie in 2012. “It’s just a matter of getting the information out there and making it simple to participate.”

The shrink-wrap recycling program also has saved marinas hundreds of dollars each in trash-collection fees each year by keeping the bulky plastic sheeting out of Dumpsters.

More than 125 Ohio businesses are involved in the recycling program, according to Orlando. Besides Brenner 75 in Toledo, other drop-off sites for used shrink wrap include Catawba Landing Marina on Northeast Catawba Road in Port Clinton and Sandusky Harbor Marina on Huron Street in Sandusky.

The Ohio marina collection sites will be taking used shrink wrap for recycling in mid-May through about June 15. Information on the program and the location of the collection sites is available from the Ohio Clean Marinas Program office at 419-609-4120, during normal business hours.

Michigan, which has more than 800,000 registered boats, has a similar shrink-wrap recycling program and also works in conjunction with Mondo Technologies.

Toledo Beach Marina on Toledo Beach Road in LaSalle serves as a collection site in the Michigan shrink-wrap recycling program. Michigan’s involvement in the effort started in 2007 as part of the Michigan Clean Marina Program and about 50 marinas throughout the state take part, keeping an estimated 200,000 pounds of shrink wrap out of the landfills each year.

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: or 419-724-6068.