As the boating season approaches, the Town of Hempstead Monday will launch what is believed to be the first municipal shrink-wrap recycling program in the country.
Shrink-wrap - the thin polymer plastic film draped over boats and then heated to make weather-tight covers in winter - is recycled by some marinas around the country. But the town and a national boating group said Hempstead's move is thought to be the first time a government has arranged a system for marinas and individuals to have a place to recycle the plastic that is often thrown away.
"Most of the shrink-wrap programs I've heard of are organized by state clean-marina programs," said Susan Shingledecker, assistant vice president of environmental programs for the Boat Owners Association of The United States.
New Jersey, Maryland and Ohio have done that, designating certain marinas as collection points where commercial firms pick up the plastic for recycling, she said. "It's really marina-centered. The state programs act as a coordinator. This is definitely a newer way of going about it. It's great."
In Hempstead, commercial marinas and boat owners will be able to bring shrink-wrap to the Sanitation Department's facility at 1600 Merrick Rd. in Merrick and place it in a container for shipment to a recycling firm.
While it protects boats from the effects of harsh winter weather, shrink-wrap presents a waste disposal problem, clogging landfills with nonbiodegradable material, Supervisor Kate Murray said.
Murray said the average boat requires as much as 14 pounds of shrink-wrap, and there are more than 15,000 boaters in the town. "Hempstead Town's recycling program will allow boat owners to protect their vessels from snow, ice, water and debris while also protecting the environment," she said.
The town created the program at the request of SPLASH, a Freeport-based nonprofit group dedicated to keeping waterways clean.