Marc Fournier - who earns a living by encouraging innovative recycling programs - had a stroke of inspiration recently while riding a shuttle boat during his daily commute from his home in Hull, Mass., to his office in Boston.
He noticed boat after boat cocooned in plastic shrink-wrap to protect them from the harsh New England winter.
Fournier is executive director of WasteCap of Massachusetts, a nonprofit, public-private partnership that encourages businesses throughout the state to adopt recycling and waste-reduction programs.
Professional curiosity turned his thoughts toward what happens to the plastic wrap once spring arrives and the boats emerge from their winter hibernation.
``I figured most of it was getting thrown away, and I was correct,'' Fournier said. ``So, I decided it would be really good to look for some funding to recycle that material because it's high-value plastic.''
Fournier turned first to the American Plastics Council in Arlington, Va., which is one of many financial supporters of WasteCap. The plastics council agreed to put up $7,500 to launch a pilot recycling program.
He then turned to the Massachusetts Marine Trades Association, which pledged another $7,500.
WasteCap also is hoping for future funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
``We're doing it up and down the Massachusetts coast,'' said Fournier, who discussed the program at the Enviro Expo conference, held May 6-8 in Boston. ``It's a huge project.''
WasteCap has at least 10 collection points in targeted areas where significant amounts of shrink-wrap can be collected. Fournier hopes to expand the project in future years.
Marinas began collecting the shrink-wrap April 1 and will continue accepting the material from boat owners through May or until the majority of boats are unwrapped.
WasteCap hopes to collect shrink-wrap from about 5,500 boats, but Fournier said he doesn't really know how much material by weight will be collected.
Marinas participating in the program said it is working well for them.
``People are using the Dumpsters that they provide,'' said Mike Bunyar, manager of the Hawthorne Cove Marina in Salem. ``On our end, it's been working awesome.''
Hawthorne Marina is using a 35-yard Dumpster to collect the material. Boat owners filled the container once already and it is nearly full again, Bunyar said.
Because of outside funding, marinas are participating at no cost this year.
That means the program is saving them money by reducing waste-disposal costs by keeping the plastic wrap out of their regular waste stream.
However, if the pilot program proves successful, marinas may be asked to contribute a nominal amount toward program costs, Fournier said.
Hawthorne Cove Marina has tried recycling programs in the past but could not find anyone interested in taking the material, Bunyar said.
WasteCap believes it can overcome that problem by making the recycling program a coordinated, statewide effort that will collect a sufficient quantity of material to make transportation cost-effective.
E.L. Harvey and Sons Inc., a waste hauler and recycler in Westborough, is working with WasteCap to collect and market the material.
The program offers numerous environmental benefits. ``First of all, it saves valuable landfill space, and it recycles a really high-value plastic material,'' Fournier said.
The shrink-wrap can be converted into plastic lumber and other products.
The WasteCap program is limited to white shrink-wrap, which makes up 80 percent of the material used in the area. Fournier said it is more difficult to find a market for the less-common blue shrink-wrap.