You drive to the lake in an electric car while drinking an organic smoothie without a straw. Then, you park in the shade of a century-old tree and slide 100 pounds of plastic into the water.

How environmentally friendly is kayak fishing?

Especially when the boat and accessories are made of plastic?

Turns out, recycling and reusing materials is standard practice among boat and gear manufacturers. Rich Gleason, vice president of production at Hobie, tells me the plant recycles a ton of plastic. Literally. Gleason says the manufacturing plant recycles close to 2,000 pounds of material each month.

“We recycle linear polyethylene from the kayaks, as well as ABS plastic from thermoforming,” Gleason explains. The company also recycles aluminum, steel and cardboard. “We have been recycling since I started working here 20 years ago.”

Hobie makes recycling a part of their process so it is easy to return used plastic to a new use. Gleason says the process begins with bins in each work area. The smaller bins are emptied into a roll-off bin and stored in the back of the manufacturing area. “The recycler picks up the plastic and turns it into raw plastic for picnic tables, containers, fencing and other stuff,” Gleason says.

The Process Of Repurposing

Some large items are repurposed in the shop. Raw plastic powder comes in large cardboard boxes. “We reuse the empty boxes to collect recyclable materials,” Gleason says. The boxes work great to transport and temporarily store materials, too.

Used boats are always welcome home. “Our policy is to recycle any customer’s kayak, but we don’t see very many,” Gleason laughs.

Beyond the boat, kayak fishing uses a lot of plastic. Everything from rod holders to cup holders is made of the indestructible, long-lived wonder polymer. Luther Cifers, president of YakAttack and Bonafide Kayaks, feels responsible when he creates a plastic gadget capable of living 1,000 years. “We are always on the lookout for opportunities to be good stewards, and this includes recycling,” he says.

When I asked what made him start recycling as part of the manufacturing process, Cifers had a simple answer: “It was the responsible thing to do.”

YakAttack and Bonafide work with recycling partners to process excess plastic. Still, the company tries to avoid waste. No matter how companies limit waste and improve recycling, the plastic still piles up. Cifers says, “With all of the prototypes, normal production waste and scrap from our CNC routers, the total comes to a few thousand pounds each year.”

Anglers play a part, too. If your boat has seen its last day, ask the manufacturer about a recycling policy. Better yet, consider the company’s commitment to environmental responsibility before purchasing your next kayak.

The plastic in a kayak can last 50 generations. The best way to recycle your gear is to pass it on to another angler. The longer a kayak is on the water, the longer it stays out of the landfill.

Out with the old…
Photo: Jeffrey Fortuna

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