Is this a watershed moment for wetsuits? Traditionally, wetsuits have been made of neoprene, a synthetic rubber first developed in 1930 by DuPont. It’s flexible and in foam form has good insulation qualities, but it’s also very non-biodegradable. Is it good for the environment? Patagonia says no and has produced an alternative, so will your next wetsuit be environmentally friendly?
Patagonia, an, outdoor sports, clothing company, has an ethos that is briefly summed up as “cause no unnecessary harm” and that seems to be why they have now entered into the sustainable wetsuit business.
Patagonia’s product manager John Hubbard, says “Neoprene is nasty. From its dependency on oil and the energy to make it, through to its non-biodegradability, everything about it is harmful…..The first versions of neoprene were actually used to line the bottoms of landfills, so what that tells you about its biodegradability is that it’s the worst.”
Patagonia’s wetsuits use a sustainably-certified, renewable, plant-base, natural rubber from hevea trees and Hubbard says this breakthrough material creates 80% fewer CO2 emissions than required in the production of neoprene.
As stated on the Patagonia website their product is: “a high-performance, neoprene-free wetsuit made of 85% Yulex® natural rubber/15% synthetic rubber by polymer content; the natural rubber is derived from sources that are Forest Stewardship Council® certified by the Rainforest Alliance.” See the Guardian for the entire story.
Will Others Follow?
Patagonia hopes that other surfing wetsuit manufacturers will switch away from neoprene and join in sourcing hevea from Arizona-based Yulex. Mostly because of cost constraints: Billabong, Rip Curl and Quicksilver have shown little interest, so far, in following suit.
Sheico a Taiwan-based wetsuit manufacturer, launched its own hevea-based material called NaturalPrene. Although Sheico’s hevea (grown in Malaysia) is not FSC certified, unlike Patagonia’s Yulex version. Vissla uses NaturalPrene in their wetsuits see their product line here.
Surfing Rides a Sustainable Wave!
Blue Ocean has reported on sustainable products for surfing and diving using recycled plastics and biodegradable alternatives, see: Surfing Rides the Waves of Sustainability.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean.net
See These Additional Related Blue Ocean Articles: