Establishing the world’s first circular marina

Redesigning New Zealand’s marina infrastructure by combining renewable polymers with a closed loop recycling system.

At XLabs, the Advanced Floating Platforms team worked on an intergenerational approach to help improve our marinas and our connection to the ocean for the next 240 years – starting right here in Tāmaki Makaurau.

CBD methods:
Closed loop systems
Smart materials
Circular business model
Regenerative behaviour
Industry:
Marine industry
Impact:
Reduced waste
Carbon emissions

The Team:
Kerry Martin
Nic Lee
Dean Whitworth
Made possible by Polymer Engineering

The Challenge ­–

Over the next 5 to 10 years, 80% of New Zealand marinas are due to reach their end of life. That means thousands of kilometres of pontoons will need to be disposed of. The current plan is to replace them with the same styrofoam-encased concrete options. But the way Kerry Martin and his Advanced Floating Platforms team looks at it is simple – if we have a better alternative, why aren’t we using it?

As an island nation that loves the oceans surrounding it, New Zealand has the highest per capita spend on marine-based activities. We are navigators, explorers and gatherers – seeking adventure, nourishment and enjoyment out on the open water. Marinas are how many of us access the ocean. But the current pontoons, walkways, fingers and berths are 90% styrofoam encased in 60-90mm of concrete. Not only do these materials create issues in the very nature of their manufacturing and decomposition when they’re broken up by storms, boats or simply old age — but they also attract and harbor invasive species, altering the natural biodiversity of Aotearoa’s eco-systems.

Advanced Floating Platforms is a business established to start solving these existing challenges by redesigning marina infrastructure. At XLabs, their team explored “how might we create a circular marina that uses advanced floating platforms to avoid polluting the ocean and help our native species?” 

43

Major marinas

23

Ports

960,000

boat owners, 40% over 6m long

1000's

of kms of marina walkways

80%

marina infrastructure due to be renewed over the next 10 years

The Journey ­–

In working through circular economy principles at XLabs, the team quickly adopted a new mindset to broaden their ideas and level up the potential of environmental, economic and social impact. One of their greatest ‘aha’ moments was in exploring smart materials and closed loop systems. They realised they could go far beyond designing better single-use options, by entirely redesigning the system itself.

Other valuable moments in their journey: 
- In learning about regenerative behaviours, the team explored directly involving and educating end-users and stakeholders to create a shared vision for circular marinas.
- By embedding intelligence with digital platforms and AI, they explored sourcing and sharing large quantities of material waste across a range of suppliers and makers that would otherwise go to landfill.
- By networking participation and making cross-industry connections, they developed a circular solution with the support and input of like-minded experts and businesses, including Plastics NZ, Scion, Toitū, Blender, ecostore and more.

“If we had the opportunity to buy a berth manufactured by Advanced Floating Platforms we would.”
Boat owners, Survey in Westhaven Marina

The Solution ­–

Advanced Floating Platforms is making the world’s first circular marinas possible, with a system of modular walkways and platforms designed to be easily maintained, replaced and recycled over a number of lifetimes — for up to 240 years. This intergenerational approach will ultimately shift marinas from being linear, to become more circular in their infrastructure and impact. Starting with smarter choices in products, materials and existing resources to help reduce unnecessary plastic waste and carbon emissions.

Circular design features:
- Primary floating walkways made of Green PE and each lasting 30-50 years, drawing down 4 tonnes of carbon for every tonne of HDPE and sinking 80-160T of CO2e per km.
- Finger keys (the walkways alongside the boats) made entirely from high grade, recycled and UV enhanced plastic that can be replaced every 15 years and recycled up to 12 times.
- Lighter in every sense, this design solution will be one-tenth of the weight of today’s concrete options, with lighter transportation and less ongoing disruption to marinas and our natural marine environment. 

“We want to support Advanced Floating Platforms and will find them a site in the Marina for them to place a walkway and a series of fingers”
Kevin Lidgard, Head of Marina’s Panuku Auckland

The Ambition ­–

Advanced Floating Platform’s ambition is for New Zealand to lead the world with the highest-rated marinas by 2040. Over the next ten years, 1000s of kilometres of concrete-encased polystyrene marina walkways will be replaced with a 240-year circular marina system, where everything put into these waters, is cared for, carefully maintained and repurposed. With every marina across Aotearoa shifting away from linear, take-make-waste models, and instead, renewing our connection to the ocean in more regenerative ways. Lifting the collective impact of New Zealand’s marina lifestyle, and aligning the values of over 960,000 boat owners, 43 major marinas and 23 ports across New Zealand — the time is now.

“The system is linear - you make the pontoons, place them and then dispose of them - it’s hard to recycle the current materials and they deteriorate during use. Due to the lightweight design and possibility of material recycling in New Zealand, your product will enable the shift to a circular system - from manufacturing to leasing, to removing, recycling and replacing. We look forward to working with Advanced Floating Platforms to increase the resilience of their recycled polymer sheets by UV stabilisers, identifying suitable recycled plastic grades and supporting in-field testing.”
Marc Gaugler, Scion Scientist, Biopolymers and Chemicals 

Momentum for this solution is building and its impact will be as widespread as its rollout, but the team is starting small with a first pilot right here in Auckland’s Westhaven Marina. Get in touch with founder, Kerry Martin, if you’d like to know more about the project and potential pilots.