Aware of the fragility of Lake Erie and the state’s waterways, Ohio boaters protect that environment through a shrink wrap recycling program.
Since 2006, boaters, marinas and greenhouses participating in the Ohio Clean Marinas Program have diverted more than 2.3 million pounds of shrink wrap — about the weight of 49 buses — from landfills. The low-density polyethylene has been recycled into guard rail blocks along nearly 430 miles of Ohio highways.
“We are one of longest running shrink wrap recycling programs in the Great Lakes,” said Sarah Orlando, Ohio Clean Marinas program manager. “We are incredibly lucky that we can trace this material and we know it’s being recycled and used on our highways across the state.”
This year the program gets a boost from a new partnership with Firelands Local, a nonprofit business in Norwalk, Ohio, that finds and provides meaningful work for adults with developmental disabilities. The business will pick up the shrink wrap from marinas and bale it for Mondo Polymer Technologies, the company that recycles the plastic. Firelands Local employees will collect the material using a compactor recycling truck purchased through an Ohio EPA recycling grant sponsored by Ohio Sea Grant and Ohio Clean Marinas. A $150 fee covers the collection within a 55-mile area from Firelands Local, but the company will collect outside that area for an additional charge.
“At Firelands Local, our mission is to find and provided meaningful work for adults with developmental disabilities,” said James Johnson, executive officer. “Boat wrap recycling is a win on multiple fronts. We are helping keep tons of plastic out of our dumps every year, and it helps us provide quality work for our employees.”
Orlando explains that unlike discarded paper, wood and food, the plastic never breaks down completely.
“We know plastic only breaks down in smaller and smaller pieces,” she said. “It’s one of the most perpetual types of waste in our environment.”
Happy Days Boating Co., a Clean Marina in Port Clinton, Ohio, marina, helps reduce the need for shrink wrap by offering its customers cold and heated indoor storage. Still, it wraps and stores about 80 boats a year, said Matt Gottron, owner/sales.
“The recycling of shrink wrap is very important for a few reasons,” Gottron said. “The environmental impact of putting tons and tons of used shrink wrap in the landfill is devastating. Happy Days feels that any part they can do to lessen the negative impact is important. It takes more time to make the wrap recycle ready, but in the end the used wrap will help with making guardrails along the highways safer.”
In addition to marinas, groups of boaters might band together to create a collection site. Communities could offer similar opportunities, such as the Lucas County boat shrink wrap recycling events. Ohio Clean Marinas is working to expand the program to other areas of the state, including the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District and central and southern Ohio.
The program gained more momentum last year when Ohio Clean Marinas created a shrink wrap recycling working group, open to anyone, which shares solutions and helps other entities start recycling programs. The group fosters coordination and partnerships between successful programs in northeast and northwest Ohio and other organizations, including solid waste districts and Keep America Beautiful chapters, that want to start similar recycling efforts. In addition, people from other states are attending to glean ideas from Ohio’s successes.
Ohio Clean Marinas also encourages boaters to reduce waste by purchasing reusable cloth covers, which are more expensive initially but less costly on an annual basis, and by using indoor storage.
Boaters and marina operators can watch a video to get more details about the program and learn how to properly prepare the shrink wrap for recycling; removing the nylon strapping, for example, is essential. Marina operators who want to participate in the program should compete the online Shrink Wrap Recycling Interest Form.
The Ohio Clean Marinas Program is a partnership initiative between Ohio Sea Grant and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Parks and Watercraft and Office of Coastal Management. The program supports marinas across Ohio by providing education and technical assistance on environmental topics and promoting a voluntary, incentive-based certification program to recognize those marinas that go above and beyond environmental regulations.
For details on the shrink wrap recycling working group, contact Sarah Orlando at firstname.lastname@example.org.