Recycling of sails (update 2023)

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Recent (2023) publications across Europe are very promising.

For carbon reinforced sails

The University of Bristol (Bristol Composites Institute) has defined a recycling pathway for the recovery of EOL (End of Life) 3Di sails. Carbon Fiber is reclaimed via a superheated steam pressure/ swing process. Full details can be found at:

For coated sails (polyester)

The REACT project (REcycling of waste ACrylic Textiles), funded by the EU (Cordis/ Horizon 2020) has successfully shown that finishing and chemical substances can be removed from acrylic fibers (post-industrial and post-consumer). The finding can also be applied to other yarns and woven materials such as polyester. Full details ca be found at:

For nylon (spinakers/ gennakers)

A solutions seems readily available but has not been implemented yet. Aquafil is offering virgin and recycled nylon from their factories, they are successfully partnering with companies like Napapijri and Tarket. There is an opportunity here to be explored.

For polyester sails (woven & non-woven)

Produced since the 1950’s, sails are coated and (heat)treated for UV protection and to withstand pressures put on them. Most polyester sails are coated with melamine and sometimes colored. The coating is an obstacle for simple (mechanical) recycling.

Research into recycling has been done in the past with limited success. The residual product was of limited value and certainly not suitable for yarns that could be (re)used for sailmaking. A circular product is far from realization.

Having received support from various parties that have done research in the past, Resail has asked high school NHL Stenden (in co-operation with the University of Groningen) testing into chemical recycling of polyester sails.

The results are very encouraging; up to 85% of the residual material can be turned into PET. We envisage further testing in the fall of 2023 with the aim to start scaling up in 2024. Keep following us for future developments on our blog or LinkedIn.

Resail, there is always a second life for sails!