An estimated 8,380 tonnes of neoprene, much from unwanted wetsuits, ends up in landfill globally every year. Wetsuits and other neoprene products have traditionally been impossible to recycle.
The only option has been to dump or shred them. The best way to prevent this eco disaster? Keep your unwanted water sports wetsuits in use as long as possible.
Selling on any wetsuit that is in good condition is the least polluting option, especially children’s wetsuits as they are generally little used and perfect for re-sale. As with other outdoor clothing, re-sale keeps no longer needed wetsuits out of landfill and in active usage. However cheaply you can get hold of a new wetsuit, for paddleboarding, surfing, a water sports course or whatever, buying one secondhand is the more eco option.
Wetsuits are exceedingly slow to deteriorate, depending on how they are stored and looked after. They do not break down in landfill.
Care about the environment? Keep your old wetsuits in active usage: sell them on.
Re-use and extending the usage of your wetsuits and other outdoor clothing and equipment beats recycling every time. Why? Because re-use saves the energy required to re-manufacture it into another product, reducing wastage and pollution at the same time.
Can you recycle neoprene?
Alternative plant-based materials are being developed, but right now pretty much all wetsuits are made from neoprene, a non-biodegradable synthetic rubber derived from petroleum or limestone: both non-renewable resources.
Until recently, there was no way to recycle neoprene.
Instead, the neoprene was shredded or simply re-purposed into other items such as laptop bags or mouse mats. The reason neoprene is used for wetsuits is because it is temperature resistant. It is also chemically inert, with a low oxidation rate and high sun and ozone resistance. Hence neoprene wetsuits are tough. They degrade very slowly and make a perfect secondhand purchase.
Be confident: that wetsuit you bought for your child when they were aged eight will most likely still be perfectly wearable at least a decade later. I am still using the wetsuit I bought for dinghy sailing back in the 1990s: 30 years on and it is still as good as new. Luckily, it still fits. If it didn’t, I would be passing it on to a younger family member or selling it on WhoSki.com.
What to do with your secondhand wetsuit?
Selling on a good condition, unwanted wetsuit is obviously the most environmentally friendly way to keep it in active usage and minimise its carbon footprint.
If you are looking for a wetsuit, think pre-loved before you buy new. Check out the outdoor clothing section of WhoSki.com to buy or sell secondhand wetsuits.
However, if you are looking for alternative ways to dispose of an unwanted wetsuit, the good news is that sustainable technologies are evolving.
A company called Circular Flow is working on a process to effectively and sustainably recycle neoprene for re-use.
The amount of neoprene it can cope with is limited, but some retailers have already partnered with Circular Flow to ensure their returned wetsuits are recycled using their proprietary technique.
As with all outdoor wear, maximising its usage is the most eco way to ensure it causes least damage to the environment.
Think WhoSki.com next time you are having an outdoor clothing clear-out, and when you are stocking up for your next adventure.
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