ECO Yachts in Monfalcone, Italy, launched a third-party verified carbon neutral production sailboat, the ecoracer30. The 30-foot-long sailboat, which features a recyclable thermoplastic hull and deck and other green technologies, is the culmination of a four-year journey by three longtime friends and sailing teammates who want to help solve the boat industry’s recycling problem.

While GFRP composites transformed the leisure marine industry in the 1950s and 1960s, enabling mass production and a boom in boat ownership that continues today, millions of these crafts have reached their end-of-life and are creating another kind of boom – in global waste.

 “Unfortunately, [thermoset] fiberglass is not easily recyclable, and there are several challenges and high costs associated with recycling it,” says Fabio Bignolini, co-founder and CEO of ECO Yachts. “As a result, around 95% of fiberglass boats are sent to landfills, sunk, burned or abandoned at the end of their life, creating a global environmental challenge.”

According to ECO Yachts, there are 80,000 decommissioned GFRP boats in the European Union (EU), and an additional 30,000 boats – equivalent to 23,100 tons of FRP waste – will be discarded annually by 2030.

Disturbed by this trend, Bignolini, Andrea Paduano and Piernicola Paoletti founded NLcomp® in 2019 to develop a recyclable composite for boat building. After two years testing production technologies and hundreds of combinations of thermoplastic resins and fibers, NLcomp finalized rComposite™, a thermoplastic composite that can be reinforced with flax, glass and carbon fibers.

The trio then joined forces with boat designer Matteo Polli, who has worked closely with their Northern Light sailing team since 2012, to create ecoracer25, a 25-foot prototype featuring an rComposite hull and deck. Ecoracer25 was fabricated using two layers of ampliTex™ biaxial flax fibers, unidirectional reinforcements from Bcomp Ltd. and a 20mm AtlasHPE recyclable foam core supplied by NMG Europe, which were vacuum infused with an Arkema polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA). The parts were then post-cured at 80 degrees Celsius using air cannons and finished with acrylic paint.

“The challenge of combining thermoplastic resins was really complicated,” says Bignolini. “Nobody believed we could do it, but thanks to hundreds of infusion tests and numerous material tests, we managed to not only create a new recyclable composite but also build a real boat in just two years.”

Bignolini, Paduano (CTO and R&D manager of ECO Yachts) and Paoletti (CFO of ECO Yachts) sailed the ecoracer25 to victory in the 2022 Italian Sport Boat Championship, defeating a fleet of 40 traditionally manufactured GFRP boats.

“We proved that the performance of the material is on a par with fiberglass,” says Bignolini. Ecoracer 25 also received several awards, including the Eco Focused Boat of the Year 2022 at the International Boat Industry and Metstrade Boat Builder Awards.

Building on this expertise, NLcomp and spinoff ECO Yachts partnered with Polli and Paolo Dassi, a structural engineer who specializes in racing boats, to develop ecoracer30, which debuted at the 2023 Ocean Race Finale in Genova, Italy.

Like its predecessor, ecoracer30 is fabricated with layers of biaxial fiber mats and a recycled foam core that are vacuum infused with PMMA. Ecoracer30, however, is reinforced with flax and carbon fiber rComposite, laid up on 3D-printed, recyclable thermoplastic molds by Breton S.p.A. and finished with a gel coat.

In addition to its recyclable hull and deck, ecoracer30 features several other sustainable technologies, including solar, hydro and wind powered systems, recyclable 4T FORTE™ composite sails by One Sails and climate neutral manufacturing.

ECO Yachts says it’s the first boatbuilder to use a third party, in this case Climate Standard, to verify its yacht’s climate neutrality. The company publishes ecoracer30’s emissions data, reduction plans and offsetting strategy on its website ( It hopes that this transparency will help push the yachting industry toward true sustainability.

“Greenwashing is a significant issue in the market,” says Bignolini. “Now everything is labeled sustainable, even if it’s not truly so.”

Ecoracer30 is available as a 1,900 kg sport boat or 2,100 kg racing yacht, including its 700 kg lead bulb. As of March, two 2,100 kg ecoracer30s had been sold and will participate in Offshore Racing Congress (ORC) competitions in the Mediterranean Sea this summer. ECO Yachts hopes to have six ecoracer30s on the racecourse soon.

The company’s next model will be a 36-feet performance cruiser that will be the first serial production cruiser built entirely with thermoplastic technologies, according to ECO Yachts.

“We had to slow down project development to concentrate all forces on the production of ecoracer30 boats for customers,” says Bignolini. “But we have an [ecofoiler] hull prototype, and we count on starting again after the summer with a production part.”

As ECO Yachts continues to build its own brand of climate-neutral, recyclable boats, the founders are also licensing NLcomp’s rComposite materials to other shipyards and sharing their expertise. In the first such collaboration, NLcompteamed with Canteire del Pardo on the Grand Soleil BLUE, a 33-foot, zero-impact day sailer.

“Our aim is to solve the end-of-life [problem] of fiberglass composites,” says Bignolini. “By sharing our expertise, we hope to encourage the adoption of sustainable practices throughout the industry.”

Melissa O’Leary is a freelance writer and avid sailor in Cleveland. Email comments to

Fabrication of an rComposite™ test part.

Photo Credit: NLcomp®