97% of sails end up in landfill. Now a new sail recycling scheme has been launched to repurpose old sails, bags and sheets

Resail, a new sail recycling scheme, has been launched by the not-for-profit organisation, Clean Sailors.

Currently, 97% of old sails end up in landfill sites when they come to the end of their life on the water.

Resail will allow sailors to search for and find local drop-off points for old sails, bags and sheets which can then be repurposed into lifestyle products such as bags and deck chairs.

It follows a successful sail recycling pilot project which was launched in the south west of England in 2021.

Elvstrom EPEX Ekko sails use taffeta, UV film and fibre that all come from recycled sources. Credit: Nikola J Schwaner

Some manufacturers are trying to make their sails more environmentally friendly. Elvstrom EPEX Ekko sails use taffeta, UV film and fibre that all come from recycled sources. Credit: Nikola J Schwaner

The vast majority of drop off points are in the UK, but the scheme is also operational in parts of Poland, Italy, Greece, Portugal and the United States.

Clean Sailors will be working with sailmakers to find out more about the materials used to see if they can be repurposed outside of the sailing industry, helping to prolong the life of the initial material used.

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The founder of Clean Sailors, Holly Manvell is determined to cut the amount of old sails which end up in landfill

‘As sailors, we all yearn for the freeing, nature-powered feeling that only a well-rigged sail can provide. Whether it be a colourful kite propelling you downwind, a reefed main giving you the comfort you need or a tightly trimmed headsail beating you upwind, we often forget that sails are in fact, highly engineered materials, built to last. We have a massive opportunity to help facilitate the reuse of existing end-of-life sail fabrics,’ explained Manvell, who learnt to sail as a child.

Sailing recycling has been launched in the UK. This image shows a grey hulled yacht sailing through waves with a white sails flying

97% of sails end up in landfill sites after the end of their life on the water. Credit: Paul Wyeth

‘’We launched ReSail to give sails, and other sailing materials, the chance of a longer life, whether again in our sailing world or another industry. Through better understanding the construction behind such materials, we can significantly reduce the waste that, unfortunately, is created in our industry.

‘We’re already working with some fantastic partners on this project who share our passion and vision for making sailing a more sustainable practice, and can’t wait to do more,’ she added.

Clean Sailors was founded in July 2020 and aims to raise awareness of ocean conservation issues through research and sharing tips on sustainable sailing. Resail is being supported by Henri Lloyd.

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