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 Post subject: Canoe Material Lifecycle
PostPosted: September 17th, 2013, 11:18 am 
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The question on the flax/vinyester canoe brought some thoughts to mind. I'm interested in expanding/digressing from that question.

My gut feeling is that the main sustainability issue in canoe production is closing the loop of its materials lifecycle. ie what do you do with an old, broken and unfixable canoe?

I assume you can take an old aluminum canoe to a scrapyard and get paid a few dollars for 50lbs of scrap aluminum. A polyethylene boat is at least theoretically recyclable but practically I wouldn't know where to take it. Do any polyethylene boat
manufacturers take back their boats at the end of their lifecycle? I would think this should be feasible for them. A wooden boat, at least prior to whatever coatings are added to it, should be biodegradable or burnable. However what can be done with an epoxy/cloth canoe at the end of its lifecycle? Does anyone have an answer other than putting it in the garbage? I get the argument that one buys a quality canoe uses it for a long time and thus minimizes the garbage/non-renewed resource issue. Its probably a valid argument when considering relative scale other non-sustainable things we do. Nonetheless given that a canoe is a tool for nature connection, exploration, etc it would be nice to have a little bit better solution even if disposing of wrecked canoes isn't causing any global calamities.

As mentioned above aluminum and polyethylene (or any thermoplastic I guess) are options. Not particularly popular options for trippers though. What other options are there:

1) wood? does anyone have suggestions as to sustainable outer coating for a wood boat? Is a linseed oil canvas covered approach appropriate. I recall being horrified at the contents of some of the old recipes I've seen. Newer ones seem to be better (ie no white lead). Are there other somewhat durable waterproof coatings that can be put on the outside of a wood canoe that you would also be happy to plant in your kids vegetable garden?

2) flax/vinyl-ester? a la swift flax-fusion I guess I don't really get the point of using some flax fibers and the rest kevlar. Does one not still end up with a composite canoe that nothing can really be done with at then end of its useful life? Is there some advantage to using a vinyl-ester resin rather than epoxy? Is it lower toxicity in production, use or disposal? My cursory look into comparing the two was murky.

3) something else?


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PostPosted: September 17th, 2013, 11:24 am 
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I don't know the answer, but am interested in this thread.

One comment that is at least a bit related is that the kevlar/glass composites can be repaired a whole lot more, and therefore last considerably longer than poly.

I am also unsure if the sandwich/crosslink/sp3 can be recycled in the same way as a single layer hull like the Coleman. If Colemans can be recycled I think that should be done right away, with all of them, which would improve the quality of the collective fleet of Canada!


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PostPosted: September 17th, 2013, 12:10 pm 
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Polyethylene boats can be recycled if they are constructed of linear polyethylene, either low density or high density (sometimes called super linear polyethylene). Cross-linked polyethylene cannot be recycled. I am not sure about the material used for construction of the 3-layer boats.

I don't know of any manufacturers that receive recycled kayaks at this time. Polyethylene boats must typically be recycled through some local center. Oft times all non-polyethylene material (metal, foam, etc) must first be removed and the boat sawed up into pieces below some maximum length limit.

Dagger kayak has manufactured kayaks made of recycled polyethylene. These boats are typically recreational models. The recycled plastic is not as strong due to consumption of anti-oxidants in the material at the first molding. My guess is that recycling plastic would not be too attractive to boat manufacturers as it would entail additional machinery and shipping costs that would probably outweigh any savings over not having to purchase polyethylene powder, even if the recycled plastic was received "free".

Here is an extensive pdf regarding manufacture and recycling options for linear polyethylene boats if you are interested: http://www.wspenvironmental.com/media/d ... atible.pdf

I am not aware of any ability to recycle either ABS or composite boats. I have repaired quite a few old and broken boats partly to keep them on the water as opposed to taking up residence in landfills.

As for a waterproof, non-toxic coating for wood are you overlooking fiberglass? A waterproof and virtually invisible layer of fiberglass can be applied to the exterior of most boats of wooden construction using either epoxy, vinyl ester, or polyester resins.

I don't know too much about vinyl ester resins but I have read that they are attractive to boat manufacturers because they cost less than epoxy when purchased in bulk and vinyl ester tends to penetrate multiple layers of cloth simultaneously better than epoxy does, which is important for boats made using vacuum bag or infusion methods. Vinyl ester is less attractive to home boat builders and amateur boat repair guys like me because of greater toxicity (due to the methyl-ethyl-ketone-peroxidase catalyst) and a much more limited shelf life. Epoxy is also said to be somewhat stronger than most vinyl ester resins, although more expensive.


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PostPosted: September 17th, 2013, 12:23 pm 
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Fiberglassing a wood/canvas canoe instead of using canvas seriously shortens it's lifespan. Strippers are glassed on both sides which is not practical on a hull with ribs. I'm just finishing getting Glass off an old canoe.


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PostPosted: September 17th, 2013, 12:28 pm 
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At one extreme is the birchbark canoe, which being made from wood and bark will eventually decay away completely unless it's in a museum... not an option for most these days.

At another extreme is a canoe that lasts forever and never needs a replacement... again not much of an option, if one wants to upgrade (OTOH there seem to be a lot of these forever canoes at cottage lots but the owners probably don't use them much).

Here's my mostly-wood-with-some-epoxy-and-fiberglass Huron stripper... it wasn't built for environmental reasons.

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PostPosted: September 17th, 2013, 1:39 pm 
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Theoretically, if you look after your canoe and don't use it too hard, it will last forever. My first strippers I really beat up, and two of them are retired in a garage where they will probably become bookshelves. I now take really good care of my canoes, keep them out of sunlight, which is one of the worst things for them, and apply yearly maintenance. As long as I don't abuse them, like I used to, I can't see them becoming garbage.


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PostPosted: September 17th, 2013, 2:28 pm 
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This is an interesting thread. I would tend to agree that the flax in the Swift flax fusion layup is purely "green washing." Though I have to admit I like the look.

I would tend to think that you are correct in assuming that aluminum canoes are probably the most recycled. Most of us are aware that there is something like 60-100 pounds of aluminum there and depending on base metal rates, it's worth more than a few bucks. I tend to agree that few if any polyethylene canoes see reuse. I don't see any of the other canoes including the w/c and sood strip that would rate as low environmental impact.

To a degree I agree with Rob that cared for canoes can last a lifetime, but the reality is that things happen to canoes, and the repairs might make them functional , but eventually don't return them to what they were when they were new. The composite canoes can theoretically be repaired until there is no original just repair, but there is waste everytime you cut a piece out and replace that you aren't including in the environmental footprint.

It's an interesting question... and I don't know that there is a better answer.

PK


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PostPosted: September 17th, 2013, 2:41 pm 
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I recall the West epoxy techs describing a thorough and somewhat idealized repair of a composite boat, and saying that the result was about 85% as strong as the original hull. They didn't offer data, but those of us who try to get indefinite life out of composite hulls should consider that, with repeated repairs, those hulls may not be as sturdy (or as light) as they were originally.

Whitewater paddling has evolved into a kind of destruction derby. Boat owners admit that they expect only a few seasons, at most, out of their boats.


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PostPosted: September 17th, 2013, 10:14 pm 
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Oh, not to worry!

Composites use is growing exponentially, and there are several initiatives to recycle in testing stages. Worst possible situation will be grinding the stuff and chemically removing resin. Short fiber will become filler, resin maybe reusable? The point is, the industry understands it has a problem and will find solutions.

It's helpful to remember that a large composite airliner may have more composites on board than the entire paddlecraft industry consumes in a year. The problem isn't dad's Prospector.

It is also useful to consider that while a much repaired composite may become a little heavy and fragile for wilderness tripping, there can be an intermediate step where it becomes someone's fishing boat.


Last edited by Charlie Wilson on February 9th, 2014, 7:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: September 20th, 2013, 9:40 am 
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RHaslam wrote:
... My first strippers I really beat up, and two of them are retired in a garage where they will probably become bookshelves. I now take really good care of my canoes, keep them out of sunlight, which is one of the worst things for them, and apply yearly maintenance. As long as I don't abuse them, like I used to, I can't see them becoming garbage.


Interesting comment that mirrors my own experience as to the level of care. Having had to refinish the outside of my cedarstrip once, I do try to keep it more regularly varnished and out of the sun much more than I did for the first 10 years of it's life. I still don't baby it - like Rob, I built the canoe to get used - but a little more care will certainly extend the maintenance cycle.

If there is a recycling option for composite canoes, then I expect I'll need to use it at some point.

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PostPosted: February 7th, 2014, 3:43 pm 
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In a practical sense, the best way to keep old canoes out of landfills is to keep using them. Continue to stay current on repair skills. Offer to help someone with an older boat that needs help. My first canoe was a wrapped Sawyer Cruiser made of fiberglass that I paid $25 for. The sides were ripped out, but after some epoxy and glass it was serviceable for many years. I sold it after about 10 years for $400. The hardest part was trying to straighten the aluminum gunwales.


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