Can You Reuse And Recycle Boat Shrink Wrap?


As the winter storage for boaters begins to come to a close this year. There are many people that ask us, can I keep and reuse the shrink wrap from our boat? Which is a great question that I’m sure many people would like to know more about!

Can You Reuse And Recycle Boat Shrink Wrap? Yes, boat shrink wrap can be reused a couple of times if it is properly installed and removed. It can also be recycled; many states now have recycling programs to take in the shrink wrap and dispose of it properly.

Here are the best tactics to use that will allow you to reuse your boat shrink wrap. As well as some recycling or repurposing ideas for it!

Is Shrink Wrapping a Boat Necessary?

Shrink Wrapping A BoatThe necessity of shrink wrapping your boat really depends on where you live, and how much you like the way your boat looks! Shrink wrapping should be looked at as a form of maintenance. Especially if you live in a location that sees a lot of snow and freezing temperatures.

Think about the damage that is done when water and snow builds up in the boat and goes through freezing cycles. Water in window seals, seat cushions, around the bilge pumps and float switches.

The ice can damage things that you would never think about and then you will find out when you get the boat out of storage the following boating season. For most people that have invested in buying a boat.

Which is usually not a cheap investment. (Find out what we think about whether a Boat is a Good or Bad Investment here!) Forking out the money for the boat means that we would like to get as many years out of the boat as we can!

Besides all the costs and expenses that occur just from owning a boat, taking care of it is pretty important to make sure it lasts.

So, I would say yes, it is necessary to shrink wrap or cover your boat when it comes time for winter storage.

Is Shrink Wrapping a Boat Worth it?

Now, being worth it is really a different question. I think that a lot of people put the necessity and the worth it questions together. When in reality they are not the same!

Being worth it will also depend on where you are and what is available. There are some places where you might find that the cost of inside storage is actually cheaper than the cost of shrink wrapping.

If you can store your boat inside of a barn or a garage, then it is different than if you have to store it outside in the elements.

Weighing the cost of inside verses outside will depend greatly on what you have available in your area. Maybe you can find an inside storage facility where you can park your boat on the trailer inside of a barn for only a couple hundred dollars for the winter.

If it costs less than the price of the shrink wrap, that might be a better option. You are still protecting the boat from the winter weather, and maintaining it for next season.

Even with inside storage though, you are going to want to think about covering the boat. There are a lot of critters and things that you will have to fight inside, just as outside.

Rats, mice, raccoons, cats, and other animals love to find a way into a stored boat and make a little hotel for the winter!

Dust, dirt, and other things can build up on the boat when being stored inside too. Covering the boat and making sure that animals can’t get inside will help keep the boat clean and fresh for next season!

More About Tarps or Boat Covers

Reusing Boat Shrink WrapTarps and boat covers are the other options opposed to shrink wrap. It does get a little more complicated when trying to get the tarp to fit properly to protect the boat as the shrink wrap does.

If the boat is being stored inside, almost any cover or tarp that fully covers the boat can work. The main thing to do is just make sure that it completely covers all the way around the boat.

Then take some lines and tie a line all the way around the boat, ensuring that there is no way for any animals to climb up inside the boat. This will only work for so long because it is difficult to properly vent a tarp without cutting holes in it and weakening its strength.

Without the vent holes, you can have moisture build up and molding issues. So there is a catch twenty-two there.

When it comes to outside storage though, for the winter, the shrink wrap really does a better job when it is properly installed. That is because the snow and ice slide off of it when it is pitched properly.

Where as the tarp will be extremely difficult to avoid the build-up and the ripping from the freezing cycles. Then when the wind hits it, the metal eyes on the tarp will be flapping and banging up against the boat, scratching and possibly damaging the gel coat!

The cheap generic covers are basically the same story. They will work for awhile, but after continued use, they do the same thing because they are not made for one specific boat.

Which runs the risk of damaging the boat!

When the wind blows, and the metal eyes are moving around on the hull, it will scratch the paint or the gel coat.

Now when you are talking about custom built covers. Depending on who makes the cover. These can be super expensive, but can ultimately be the best. Doing a lot of boating in Florida, covers are more for UV protection down here than snow or ice.

When up in the locations where the freezing is an issue. The custom cover can last the longest and protect just as well as the shrink wrap. They just don’t repeal the water like the plastic shrink wrap does.

How Much Does it Cost to Shrink Wrap a Boat?

Recycling Boat Shrink WrapThe cost of shrink wrapping your boat will vary a lot depending on what you have done, who does it, and where you live! Some companies will charge a little extra and wash the boat before shrink wrapping. Others will just do the shrink wrapping for you.

You can also do the shrink wrapping yourself, but this price will only save you money in the long run. You will need to purchase the strings and supports. The propane heat torch and then also the shrink wrap that is only sold in larger rolls.

As far as the actual cost for a shrink wrap job. In looking around and calling companies to ask for their price. The average price was $12-$15 per foot. There were a few that cost or advertised $10 per foot, but those usually had some sort of “travel time” fee or materials fee.

Bringing that $10 per foot up to the average of about $12 or so per foot. The size of the boat mattered as well. It seemed that on larger boats the price was a little higher, $13 or so for boats over 26 feet. This seemed to be the average price that I was able to find in locations such as New York, Maine, and Rhode Island.

I’m sure that this can range a little bit depending on where you live and what kind of business you take the boat to. The larger marinas will probably be a little bit higher. The main thing would be to ensure that whoever is doing it, knows what they are doing.

$9 per foot might sound nice until the person gets done and accidentally melted a portion of your T-top canvas!

Installing the Shrink Wrap With the Desire to Reuse it

To be able to reuse the shrink wrap. You will want to install it with this in mind. Making sure it isn’t as tight as you can get it. The more shrink wrap is heated, the tighter and the thinner it gets.

If you put the wrap on and heat it to be as tight as possible, yes this is the best and most effective way that the wrap will perform. If you are in an area that is a little more protected from the wind, then you can leave it a little looser in certain areas.

This way when you remove it and make sure you cut as little off as possible. You will be able to fold it up and then put it back on with new strings next year and still be able to heat it up and tighten it up a little.

By the 3rd, 4th, or sometimes up to the 5th year though, the wrap will be getting to the point where it is just a cover, and you are not able to heat it up and tighten it to form around the boat. This is the point where the wrap just becomes your basic plastic tarp!

How to Remove Boat Shrink Wrap for Reuse

Removing Boat Shirnk WrapSo to remove it to reuse the wrap. We want to carefully begin at the back and cut the strings that are around the back. Allowing some tension to be lifted from the bottom of the wrap.

Go ahead and leave all of the supports going over the center of the boat and around the top in place. Only cutting the bottom string that goes around the bottom of the hull.

Then go around the boat and evenly begin to lift up on the wrap working your way around the boat. Lifting a little bit of the wrap up the hull at a time.

As you get around the boat a couple of times, you will be able to lift a corner over the back transom of the boat. Either over the port or starboard side of the transom of the boat.

On a ski boat or other boat that has a swim platform, work the wrap over the platform on one of the corners to get rid of the tension on the wrap.

Once you have got the corner over and gotten the wrap over the gunwale of the boat. You are basically home free! Remember the best way to be able to reuse the cover is to cut as little off as possible.

There is shrink wrap tape so if you do have to cut a slice vertically in the wrap to get enough tension out of the wrap to begin pulling it up. The following year when you reuse it, you will need to use the tape to cover up and tighten that slit that was cut.

Making it possible for you to reuse the shrink wrap for a couple of seasons at least!

Can You Recycle Shrink Wrap?

Recycling the shrink wrap is the best thing to do. It was noticed a few years ago how much shrink wrap was being hauled off to the landfills every spring when the boating season came back around.

So trying to cut back on the amount that gets taken there is a plus for all of us! There are many different programs that states now have to make it possible to recycle the old, unusable wrap.

Though you can pay for companies to come out and remove the shrink wrap and haul it off to the recycling facilities for you. There are a couple of companies that run programs to have recycling pick up runs during certain months of the year, in certain states.

There are also different marinas in different areas that will take the shrink wrap to recycle for you. As well as a lot of waste management companies and recycling facilities that will take the shrink wrap.

So, depending on where you live. You will want to just make a couple of phone calls to these organizations to see what is available to you!

How to Dispose of Shrink Wrap

Which makes recycling the shrink wrap the best way to dispose of it. There are a lot of people that still just throw the wrap in the trash, which is one way of disposing of it.

The recycling method is preferred by most people though. Especially when there are so many programs out there to recycle the wrap.

As well as the facilities that will take it in and dispose of it properly for you.

For the most part, it doesn’t cost that much, if any, money to dispose of it to a recycling facility, just a little bit of your time!

Repurposing Boat Shrink Wrap

There is also the repurposing of the wrap. Landscaping and other methods are the most common uses.

Holes can be poked in the wrap, and it can be used to lay down under mulch and other forms of lawn care.

There are not that many ideas that I can come up with to repurpose the wrap outside of using it as a tarp to cover your stuff or a painters tarp.

The recycling method is a form of repurposing the plastic though.

Since the wrap is actually a form of plastic that some companies buy from the recycling facilities to use to make different materials.

One of those materials is composite lumber or composite decking! Which is used for decking many docks where we park our boats!

Check Us Out!

I hope this helps you out and answers your questions about reusing and recycling used boat shrink wrap! If there is something that you would like to know a little more about, just ask us in the comment section below!

We’d also like to invite you to come and check us out on our Youtube Channel: Born Again Boating! We make all kinds of how to, DIY boating tips, and outboard service tricks! Get subscribed to the channel and add us to your favorites so we can become your go-to resource when it comes to completing all of your boating DIY service and projects!

Aaron Hilligoss

Aaron has been working in the Marine Industry for over a decade and holds certifications for Yamaha and Mercury Marine. It is not uncommon for him to own and be working on at least three different boats at any given point in time!

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