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What To Do With Old Sails

Despite their exceptional durability and UV protection, every sail reaches the end of its life cycle at some point. When this happens, consider your options to reuse, repurpose, and recycle your sails instead of simply throwing them away. These three terms, "reuse," "repurpose," and "recycle," all represent a different approach for how you may bring new life to a well-used product. Our Director of Sustainability, Lara Poljsak, explains the differences below:

  • Reusing - using the product again in its originally intended use.
  • Repurposing - using the product in a way that is different from its originally intended use.
  • Recycling involves processing the product to extract some—or all—of the original materials and fibers, which can be used again to create something new.

There are many options available to give your old sails new life. Below are a few avenues you can explore to determine what best fits your sails in their current condition and what is available to you in your area. You may also consider contacting the nearest Quantum Sails loft to enquire about dropping your sails off so our team can determine the best next step. 

Reusing

Reusing a sail means using it again as it was originally intended—a sail! This can mean that the sail is used again on the same boat with some maintenance to improve durability, on the same type of boat but at a lower competitive level, or on a different type of boat with a recut of the sail. 

If you are ready to get a new sail, but your old one is still usable, you may sell or donate it to a local yacht club, marina, or another sailor. You may also reach out to your local Quantum loft, where we can check our own contacts and connections for someone who may be interested. 

Repurposing 

Repurposing a sail means using the sail again in a different way, with a different purpose. They are often remade into bags, shoes, and other accessories but can also be used as shade sails, shelter, etc. When choosing to donate your sail for a new purpose, we ask that you please consider how this new use will affect the environment in the long term. Sails are made from a combination of organic and synthetic fibers, which will eventually break down if left to the elements. Choosing an organization with experience working with sails and plans to use them responsibly is best. 

Bags and fashion accessories:

There is a large industry surrounding the repurposing of sails into fashion accessories. This space consists of large, well-known brands and small, local businesses that would appreciate receiving an old sail. Many companies provide specific instructions on their website for sail donation. If you have found one that does not, reach out to see your options! 

Furniture:

Old sails can also be repurposed as part of new furniture and decor, such as cushions, pillows, outdoor furniture, and lampshades. 

Shade sails:

Repurposed sails can be used to create temporary shade sails in common spaces. Contact your local yacht clubs and marinas to see if they can use your sails. 

Shelter:

Sometimes, old sails are donated to be used as shelter. While the humanitarian aspect of this action is great, the environmental effects can be less positive. Despite our sails' durability and UV protection, it is normal for old sails to lose those qualities and begin to disintegrate after years of sun, water, and wind exposure. Using it as shelter would create constant exposure to those elements, and the sail would start to release small pieces of plastic, films, adhesives, and other fibers into the environment. Contact them to understand their processes if you want to donate through a foundation. 

Recycling

Recycling the sail means processing the sails under high temperatures and/or high pressure to extract the original fibers and materials and separate them from resins and adhesives. The original materials and fibers could potentially be reused to create a new sail. 

Historically, there has not been a reliable method for recycling old sails. However, a promising recycling process is currently in development, and we hope for more options in the future. You can expect more details about this in a future Quantum Sustainability article. 

If you are ready to get a new set of sails and would like to dispose of the old ones or need some guidance on your options, reach out to your local Quantum Sails loft

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