Boat recycling is a growing industry.
Image: Morten Hornum / Unsplash
Boats that are no longer used for navigating through waterways are getting a new lease on life with a multitude of uses ranging from coworking spaces to restaurants and hotels. Companies are recycling these polyester hull structures into new spaces that you might be surprised to find yourself in.
In northern Europe, England, the Netherlands and Denmark, boats come with particular cultures. In such places it's not unusual to come across ships on various riverbanks that have become places of accommodation. Since the revolution in remote working during the pandemic, barges and boats have also recently become places to telework. In Paris, for instance, where French office-space solutions company Ubiq saw a team set up their workspace within Le Mazette, a barge on the quays of the Seine, for the country's national office-free day.
Boats are offering new kinds of living, working and playing spaces, popular for daily activities on a small or large scale. But some companies are taking the original idea even further and taking boats completely out of the water, off the shore to live a second life on dry land.
Bathô, a company based in Nantes, France, has made this its specialty. It gives a second life to pleasure boats by transforming them into unusual spaces on dry land: accommodation, meeting rooms, playgrounds for children... With its shipyard on the banks of the Loire, Bathô is a key player in boat recycling. The firm, which is part of the country's social and solidarity economy (SSE) sector, received a SSE prize for Ecological Transition in 2020 and aSustainable Tourism 2022 trophy from the L'Echo Tourisme media.
Ship recycling is a growing industry
France, the world's second-largest recreational craft builder, is confronted with the environmental problems caused by the manufacturing of these vessels. France counts more than one million pleasure boats, 80% of which were built before 2000 and have a lifespan of between 30 and 40 years.
Most boats are made of polyester, a material that is difficult to recycle. In fact most owners choose to abandon or even burn their boats.
APER, an association in charge of the deconstruction industry of pleasure boats, and attached to France's Ministry of Ecological Transition, has deconstructed more than 5096 boats since August 2019, according to its figures. It has 26 deconstruction centers in France. By 2025, APER hopes to double its number of centers.