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“Approximately 60,000 boats are no longer seaworthy. Some may be renovated by enthusiasts but most are destined for the graveyard.”

Sweden has 2,700 km of coastline, or about 8,000 km counting all the bays, inlets and islands. With more than 60,000 islands, 95,000 navigable lakes and 1,000 kilometers of channels, pleasure boats are a national pastime in Sweden.

No one knows exactly how many boats there are. Some estimates say 880,000, or about one boat for every eighth Swede. One third are motorized (10 HP, or more) and are mostly day cruisers. One fifth are dinghies, rowboats and skiffs. One quarter of them have sleeping accommodations.

The average Swede is out boating 25 days per year on day or fishing trips. There are approximately 1,000 boat clubs in Sweden with about 250,000 members spread between 1,500 small harbors. Studies show that interest in life at sea is growing.

The ageing boat population

In Sweden, materials and components from 200,000 scrapped cars are recovered and reused each year. It is part of a well-established recycling system.

Around 60,000 boats per year in Sweden get old, are damaged or otherwise breakdown never to see water again. Some 30-40 year old boats may get renovated. Most get scrapped.

“In the spring of 2007 we had a sailboat that we needed to scrap. After investigating the possibilities to get rid of the boat in a responsible manner, we realized that there was no functioning system for the disposal of discarded boats in Sweden. We had a problem and needed a solution,” says Maria Rindstam, part owner of Båtskroten, a boat recycling company. “Josephine Arrhénborg and I therefore started a business on Muskö in the Stockholm Archipelago focusing on scrapping old boats in an environmentally sound manner. We have worked with this for several years on a smaller scale but now it’s time to expand operations across Sweden.”

Quality assurance process

Sweboat, a trade association, developed a system a few years ago to take care of discarded boats together with Båtskroten Sweden and Stena Recycling. The project is supported by The Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth (Tillväxtverket) and the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management. A nationwide recycling system is now being built and Båtskroten in Sweden is a key player. The company has several years of experience in scrapping boats and will be responsible for developing a website where boaters apply to scrap their boats.

“In the beginning there were a lot of rules, techniques and processes to learn. It was also important to cooperate with partners to provide the full picture. We started scrapping a few boats to develop safe and environmentally sound procedures,” continues Rindstam. “Today, we receive boats from all over Sweden, from pleasure craft to burnt ships in wood or fiberglass. We also had a great response in the market, media attention and even received an entrepreneur prize from the Minister of Industry.”

“The project with Sweboat and Stena Recycling helped us develop a more detailed business model and focus on the actual costs of scrapping boats of various sizes and materials.”

National system, local players

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Mary Rindstam and Josephine Arrhénborg, founders of Båtskroten

How does it work in practice? “A form on Båtskrotens website asks to describe the boat to be scrapped – materials, make, height, weight and location. It is particularly important to declare hazardous wastes such as fuels, oils, asbestos and lead oxide. Based on the information provided, we estimate the cost of scrapping,” says Rindstam.

 

“The boat gets collected on site and is transported to a pre-treatment facility of which there are some 25 in Sweden. The individual materials and components are then sorted for recycling. An important environmental aspect of pretreatment is reducing the need for transport, and it is crucial that our partners share our thinking. We also participate and engage in various public forums related to boats and the environment,” concludes Rindstam.

Wooden boats are also included in the scrapping system but special care must be given to such hazardous chemicals as antifouling paints. Such boats should be burned in plants with flue gas cleaning.

This article was published in May 2015