Every spring, at marinas all across Ohio, boats come out of their plastic-wrapped winter hibernation for another season on Lake Erie and other waterways. And every fall, those same boats get a new coat of shrink-wrap to weather another Ohio winter.
That’s a lot of plastic, and it often ends up in landfills, where it can take decades or even centuries to break down. To help prevent all that plastic from landing in the trash, the Ohio Clean Marinas Program started the Shrink-Wrap Recycling Program in 2006. Since then, Ohio marinas have recycled more than 2.3 million pounds of shrink-wrap.
In 2019, Clean Marinas staff added another tool to help boaters make sure their shrink-wrap ends up with a recycler. A short video, created with help from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and several marinas in northeast Ohio, shows how to properly prepare shrink-wrap for collection and recycling. This includes easy ways to remove shrink-wrap from the boat, cut it down into a manageable size and keep it free of debris and nylon strapping that can interfere with the recycling process.
“We wanted to work on putting together a video that we could put on social media, or that marinas could share in a newsletter or on a website, that was really a step-by-step process showing the boater how simple it is to remove the shrink-wrapping and break it down,” said Sarah Orlando, Ohio Clean Marinas Program manager. “And now programs in other states are actually using the video to help educate their boaters on how to remove the wrapping for their recycling program.”
The video was also featured on Cleveland.com, the Plain Dealer’s online edition, as well as in a national press release from the BoatUS Foundation. Because the video could apply to a number of shrink-wrap recycling programs across the Great Lakes region, using it instead of creating their own freed up time and money for other state Clean Marinas programs that they could instead use to expand recycling opportunities.
That’s also what Orlando and her team are currently developing. Due to the cost involved in recycling shrink-wrap and the expansion of the Ohio Clean Marinas Program from just Lake Erie to the entire state, working with a single recycling pick-up or drop-off program is no longer feasible. So the Clean Marinas team is developing relationships with partners in different Ohio locations and that way, any marina would be able to have a recycling option within reasonable driving distance.
“Our northeast Ohio partners are doing great,” said Orlando. “They’re building community with marinas and owners, and are working with a company out of Norwalk called CLI that provides jobs for workers with developmental disabilities who help bail the shrink-wrap and get it ready for recycling by Mondo,” which is the main recycler for boat shrink-wrap in Ohio.
“So our next steps are taking the lessons that we learned from those northern Ohio recycling partnerships and transfer them to other parts of the state, so we can support and grow recycling programs in the inland parts of Ohio,” Orlando added.
Marinas that are interested in adding shrink-wrap recycling to their offerings should complete the form at go.osu.edu/ShrinkWrapRecycling. A Clean Marinas team member will use that information to connect marina staff to a local recycler. Certified Ohio Clean Marinas are also eligible for free shrink-wrap recycling decals to be affixed to the vessels as a reminder to properly prepare the wrap for recycling. Program staff recommend planning now to set up options and be prepared for recycling in the spring.
The Ohio Clean Marinas Program is a partnership between Ohio Sea Grant and ODNR, which started in 2005, to recognize marinas that choose to adopt best management practices to improve the environmental, educational and economic aspects of their operations. Financial assistance for the program is provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce through the Ohio Coastal Management Program, administered by the ODNR Office of Coastal Management. Additional funding is provided by the ODNR Division of Parks and Watercraft and Ohio Sea Grant.