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Major awards win for Sustainable Sailing

by Sustainable Sailing 20 Nov 2023 14:34 UTC
Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) Start-Up of the Year Award 2023 © Sustainable Sailing

The team at Sustainable Sailing are celebrating after winning the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) Start-Up of the Year Award 2023. Sustainable Sailing won the award for their development of the world's first true sail recycling technology.

The technology can recycle 90% of all the different sail cloths on the market, in a closed loop. This innovative solution for a 2000 tonne per year waste stream, mostly from the boating and leisure marine industry has been sorely needed since the invention of Dacron sail cloth in the 1960s.

The IET is a multidisciplinary professional engineering institution, who have presented awards in a wide range of categories since its inception seventeen years ago. They have a major focus on technologies which are building a more sustainable future. The President of the IET focused his awards speech on the potential of biological and chemical engineering solutions for real world challenges. This focus aligns perfectly with Sustainable sailing's innovation in recycling sails.

Sails are designed to be hard wearing and resistant to all the abuse of high-performance racing, but this has come at the cost of their being very difficult to manage at their end-of-life. While about 1% of sails are recut or repurposed into bags and jackets, the majority are stored or landfilled. Sails in landfill leach microplastics and heavy metals with even the smallest sail taking hundreds of years to degrade. However, by combining recent advances in chemical and biological engineering, Sustainable Sailing can recover high quality components of these sails, with potential to return the components into sails.

Founding Director Sam Penhaul said "We're really proud to have won the Start Up Award. To win the award in Glasgow, one of the historic hubs of maritime innovation, feels very appropriate. We're looking forward to our next steps in the business. Massive congratulations to all the shortlisted and winning companies and individuals."

Ed Almond, IET Chief Executive and Secretary, added: "The Excellence and Innovation Awards shine a spotlight on the ground-breaking innovations and best practices in engineering, science and technology, and the fantastic trailblazers who are changing the course of our future. Congratulations to each and every one of our winners. With your skills, commitment and passion, you are proof of the positive difference that engineers can make in transforming our world for the better."

If you are interested in knowing more, or partnering with Sustainable Sailing, please contact them via email:

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