SAILSetc, plastics, re-cycling and the environment

Plastic products

Many of our products are made using plastics of various sorts. The quantity used is typically small compared with their value and usefulness. The parts have a life that can be very long if used with care. Generally the material used in their production (typically for injection moulding) is virgin material and does not contain any re-cycled material. Mylar sails can last for 20+ years if cared for.

Waste material from injection moulding is often re-cycled but this is something we have no direct control over.

Waste material from turned parts can be re-cycled but, again, this is something we have no control over.

The 3D printing process creates little waste plastic at the point of use as un-processed powder is added back into the supply. We understand the material itself is derived from plant based oil. As we continue to expand our use of 3D printed parts this offers a useful way of reducing plastic/mineral oil use.

Mylar film used for sails is produced very efficiently with little waste. Unfortunately, waste at the sail making stage cannot be re-cycled, although it is relatively low as a % of what is used.

Waste polythene from sail bag production is small in volume as a % of what is used and is readily re-cycled.


Non-plastic products

Non-plastic products are generally made from one of five materials:

  • Aluminium alloy
  • Stainless steel
  • Brass
  • Lead
  • Epoxy resin with fibre reinforcement

The quantities of material involved are relatively low compared with the value and usefulness of the products. In the case of stainless steel, brass and epoxy based products, there is virtually no loss due to corrosion and the lifetime of the parts can be very long. Aluminium parts that we make are always anodised to prolong their life. Nevertheless corrosion, especially where the anodised surface is disturbed, can shorten the life of a part to a few seasons.

The cost of nickel plating has increased disproportionately over recent years due to welcome legislation requiring the waste products of the process to be cleaned up before disposal. This increased cost has further encouraged us to replace nickel plated brass and all parts that can corrode with parts made of more durable materials, typically plastic and stainless steel. The advent of laser cutting has assisted enormously with this process allowing stainless steel to replace brass and aluminium in many cases.

We eliminated alloy and timber components from our boats some decades ago. Not only do many of them have competitive lifetimes measured in decades but we fully expect many of them to become some of the most prized vintage boats of the 22nd century.

Lead in the environment has become a major issue over recent decades. Lead that is formed into a ballast shape will not be a serious hazard but the process of arriving at that ballast can create much pollution. Much of this pollution is at the stage of smelting the lead metal from its ores and the only way to reduce that pollution is to reduce the use of lead. It may be that governments will work towards that in the future. The ability of using 3D printing to create a ballast may provide an acceptable and economically viable alternative.

Lead waste created in our workshops and old ballasts are re-cycled back to the foundry.

For economic reasons alone waste metal will always be avoided and re-cycled by the manufacturers that we use and at SAILSetc we re-cycle aluminium, steel, brass and lead.



Recently we have switched to using card-based tubes for almost all our mast packaging. We hope to eliminate plastic tubes entirely in the near future.

The snap lock plastic bags that we have traditionally used for containing small parts and kits of parts are available in bio-degradable plastic for some of the sizes that we use. We will switch to bio-degradable bags when we have used our existing supply.

For the sizes that have no direct bio-degradable replacement we will, where appropriate, switch to using bags with a zipper lock that will be of continuing use after our product has been removed from it. These will be useful for containing spare parts, documents, batteries, etc in tool boxes or workshops.

Waste paper, card, timber and polythene from our workshops are all re-cycled.

We are always happy to receive from our customers used packaging in which their goods have been delivered.

We will continue to look for replacements for the other size bags and other plastics (bubble wrap, padded bags, polythene tubing) in order to work towards eliminating single use and non-recyclable plastics.


Graham Bantock


21st March 2019

© 2019 SAILSetc Ltd