The future of disused leisure boats

Recycling old pleasure boats

In the second half of the last century, many ships and pleasure craft were built in polyester instead of wood and metal. Many of these pleasure craft are now at the end of their lives and ripe for scrapping. Worrying figures are circulating in our neighbouring countries: 25 000 vessels ready for scrapping in the Netherlands, 50 000 in France and in the United Kingdom ... At the moment, we have no insight into the situation in Flanders, partly because we have no scrapyards that specialise in these polyester ships.

With this project, the Flemish Yacht Harbour of Nieuwpoort wants to map out the problem in Flanders (the coastal region) and conduct research into a long-term sustainable solution.

First, we questioned Flemish coastal marinas and related companies about the presence of ships that are ready for scrapping or that have been neglected on their premises. Next, we collected and tried to recycle several scrapped boats ourselves to gain more insight into the demolition and recycling process, especially regarding the polyester material and the financial aspects.


Partners OVAM - afdeling Afval- en Materialenbeheer





  1. Our survey showed that 45 boats ready for scrapping can be found on the Flemish coast. This inventory is certainly not complete and would be best carried out by a research bureau, but it does show that there is a need for a clean-up campaign.
  2. As far as recycling is concerned, we must make a distinction between boats intended for recycling and boats that are still suitable for sale. For example, during this project we were able to recycle 7 boats and sell 12.
  3. As we collected more and more recycled materials, we started selling them on our website. This offer received a very positive response: buyers are satisfied with parts and materials at a low price, and we were able to recover part of our costs.
  4. We also discovered, through personal stories, that our project can offer a way out to owners who no longer know what to do with their boats and can give them peace of mind.


  1. We noticed a certain reluctance on the part of coastal marinas to report neglected or demolished boats. We believe that the figures would be higher if an independent research agency were to conduct the survey. The lack of a legal framework and the cost of transportation to bring the boat in are also possible brakes.
  2. There is a need for a legal framework for abandoned vessels, so that we can act more quickly to recover and dismantle a vessel. In this way, we avoid unnecessary pollution of the waterways and ports, and valuable space is freed up more quickly for the boats of more active sailors and paying customers.
  3. A recycling tax, payable when the boat is registered and/or an annual recycling contribution for owners would also be interesting tools. These are already in place in France and are used to dismantle and recycle boats properly afterwards.
  4. Boats destined for recycling should easily find their way to a dismantling facility near the marina. Transporting a boat by water is time-consuming, but not a big expense if it can still sail itself; transporting it by land is more difficult and more expensive.
45 boats ready for scrapping
12 boats sold
7 boats recycled


We believe that our project has an interesting business model and we will continue to develop it. In the meantime, we have purchased a crane to reduce the material.

We are also continuing our research into more efficient polyester recycling, hopefully in cooperation with new partners we have met during this project, such as Houtland nv, a company that wants to use the waste stream as a filler for new constructions.

In addition, there will be a better break-down area on new sites.

A cooperation with the Vlaamse Waterweg, in order to tackle the same problem on the inland waterways of Flanders, could increase the economic feasibility of this project.