Start of Lake County boating season comes with new program to keep plastic out of landfills
The boat shrink wrap recovery pilot program is an initiative to help marina operations in Chicago and Lake County recover and recycle the plastic commonly used to winterize boats for storage.
Others involved include Charter Next Generation, Chicago Harbors, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Lakeshore Recycling Systems and Myplas USA, a recycling firm in Rogers, Minnesota, northwest of Minneapolis.
According to its website, Myplas is pioneering a "circular economy" for plastic films and leading a shift from the way plastic is being used and discarded toward a more sustainable outcome.
"They're taking recycled plastic and then bringing it back into a form that can be sold to other plastics manufacturers to get it to the specifications buyers want, which is not easy," explained Peter Adrian, recycling coordinator for the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County.
According to the Council for the Great Lakes, winterizing recreational boats requires millions of pounds of valuable plastic film that for the most part is sent to landfills each spring.
The pilot program is based on experiences in Ohio, Michigan and along the East Coast. According to the council, the intent is to bring the "plastic value chain" together with state agencies, local marinas and boaters to create a "circular economy" for shrink wrap film.
Liberty Marine in Grayslake and Skipper Bud's in Winthrop Harbor already have collection containers in place, and three other marine businesses clustered on Grand Avenue in Fox Lake will be getting them next week, Adrian said.
"They're already stripping the boats and holding the material," he said.
Film from 1,000 or more boats from those locations is expected to be recovered. Shrink wrap from a typical boat weighs about 30 pounds, Adrian said.
The pilot program is a new approach to collect, recycle and repurpose shrink wrap into new plastics products that will create economic and environmental benefits, the council said.
Adrian said the film will be collected and taken to Lakeshore Recycling in Northbrook, made into 1,200- to 1,500-pound bales and sent to Minnesota.
Adrian said shrink wrap is like polystyrene film, commonly known by the trademarked name Styrofoam.
Recycling costs can be prohibitive, he added, and if a product can be made and sold at less expense than recycling and reusing the old material, it makes it tough to market.
"It's a conundrum with Styrofoam, and film plastic falls in there," he said.
Shrink wrap collection, as well as plastic waste and pollution in the Great Lakes region, will be discussed by speakers from participating agencies at an April 21 news event at Montrose Harbor in Chicago.