Better recycling of boats

Digital product passport can help recycle fibre-reinforced composite materials

Ein Motorboot fährt über einen See.Click to enlarge
Digital product passport can help recycle fibre-reinforced composite materials
Source: sandsun /

In Germany, there are about 480,000 recreational boats, one million canoes, 10,000 motor gliders and gliders, and 8,000 motorised light aircraft that are primarily used for private purposes. At the end of their useful life, however, these items have so far not been properly recycled because established waste management processes are mostly unsuitable and capacities for the necessary individualised processing are lacking. Dirk Messner, President of the German Environment Agency (UBA), points out: "In the field of fibre-reinforced composites, concepts for reprocessing are currently still lacking. Recyclable materials are being lost. With the help of the digital product passport, we can achieve far better recycling of these materials." This is also the conclusion of a new study commissioned by the German Environment Agency (UBA-Text 93/2023).

Sports boats and light aircraft as well as certain leisure equipment, such as bicycles, skis and musical instruments, contain fibre-reinforced composites (FRC). They are often durable, valuable and, as waste, ideally suited for preparation for reuse or recycling. However, structured processing is currently still considered uneconomical and therefore does not take place.

The digital product passport could provide a remedy here. Introducing such a digital product passport, with its individualised and purpose-oriented information for repair, reuse and recycling, could promote the circular economy and conserve resources. It could also overcome the challenge of channeling the comparatively small number of occasional end-of-life products to a few but highly specialised dismantling facilities.

In general, digitisation holds great potential for recycling. In addition to providing practical information for operation, maintenance and recycling, the product passport also allows volume flow recording and material flow control. Logistical optimisation tasks can be accomplished, communication over long distances is possible and systematic network analyses can identify barriers. The possibilities for waste management are far from being fully exploited.

The digital product passport

The digital product passport is a data set that summarises the components, materials and chemical substances as well as information on repairability, spare parts and proper disposal for a product. The data originates from all phases of the product life cycle and can be used for various purposes in all these phases (design, manufacture, use, disposal). Structuring environmentally relevant data in a standardised, comparable format enables all actors in the value and supply chain to work together towards a circular economy.

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