'There is something strangely paradoxical about coating ourselves in chemical and oil-based synthetics to enjoy a natural world that cannot break them down once they are thrown away.'
One wetsuit lasts approximately 1-3 years if it is used on a regular base. People who are in the water normally like to have several wetuits at home in different thickness, functions, and looks. All of them end in landfills at one point. In addition there is a huge amount of production waste.
According to the most recent estimates, we are speaking about 350 tonnes of neoprene scrap from manufacturing that are deposited at landfills EVERY YEAR. These numbers show how huge the environmental impact is and that we need to invent creative solutions.
Unfortunately, neoprene is currently still very difficult to recycle and it derives from non-renewable sources. Even though more and more companies of the watersports industry are working on more sustainable products there is still a long way to go. To make a point here: neoprene waste is an enormous environmental problem. BUT the good news: As bad as it is to throw into the bins, it is a fantastic material to upcycle as it is light, strong, protective, durable & has a nice feel.
What is neoprene?
Wetsuits are a blessing and a curse at the same time. They help all watersports-enthusiasts to stay warm and well protected. In the cold waters around Europe, we wouldn't be surfing, diving, swimming etc. like we do without them. But what exactly is a wetsuit made of? And why is it so harmfull to nature?
Hugh Bradner - the 'father' of wetsuits - invented modern neoprene wetsuits in 1952 and they have evolved, via Jack O’neill, into the ones we see and wear today. The core ingredient of a wetsuit is closed-cell foam neoprene, a synthetic, petroleum-based rubber that contains small bubbles of nitrogen. This makes them non-biodegradable and subsequently they end up in landfills.