THE STORY OF NALU PROJECT
How did it start?
Living in an environment where watersports are popular and tourism is continously growing, I saw the amounts of waste being created by outdoor-gear for outdoorsports- and nature-lovers (isn’t that a paradox?!).
Sadly, a lot of outdoorsports-equipment is not eco-friendly at all. Same for surfing. Surfboards, surfwax, sunscreen, leashes, wetsuits,.....All of them have a bad impact on our nature. Slowly but surely though, there is a change in sight. More and more companies are working on more sustainable and recycable products. This is good news and yet there is still a long way to go.....
BUT NOW THE STORY...
...After the first season I lived at the Algarve, I found a big pile of old wetsuits in a garbage bin. As I already upcycled my own wetsuit before, I decided to do something useful with them because it seemed like such a waste to simply throw them away because they would end in landfills. The wetsuits that still seemed ok I fixed and gave them to local fisherman. The non-repairable ones I cut and made phone- and laptop cases.
After a few months, the manager of a surfshop took notice of my work and asked me to do the repairs for the rental wetsuits and the ones from the surf school. This proposal was the start of a wonderful and still-lasting cooperation and the 'real' start of NALU PROJECT.
Very fast it spread the word in the area and soon more and more watersports-companies started to work with me. I repair their wetsuits and upcycle the ones beyond repair.
Ever since, the amount and range of little NALU bags is constantly growing and so far the explosion of ideas has not come to an end ツ
I feel very grateful about the wonderful resonance NALU PROJECT has had from the beginning on and am excited about everything to come.
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.
'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.' (unknown author)
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, it 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.