Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Recycling Wetsuits and Neoprene

I've been exploring this subject quite a bit during the course of this blog, but I came across someone's question on the 2ndlight.com forum about recycling neoprene. For this case, I assumed that he might have been thinking of a place that you can drop off an old, damaged, non-usable suit to have it sent off to be deconstructed chemically into the polymer basics and reformed into new neoprene cloth.
I did see where Rip Curl in Europe started a wetsuit recycling program, however, this program makes shoes (espadrilles) from the existing neoprene, and chops up the rest into small bits to use as beanbag stuffing for "designer" RipCurl beanbag resale. Quite smart, and something I may incorporate in a future craft. I always thought they would make great pillow forms (expensive to buy at the fabric store).
For now, recycling wetsuits is mostly about repurposing the neoprene and components. I look at an old, unusable wetsuit like a junk car- it may not be street worthy, but has salvage value. Outside of just the neoprene fabric- which can be quite a lot if you plan your cutting strategy right- a wetsuit has viable heavy duty zippers that are reusable (again, expensive to buy new). Neoprene sections that have been coated in an insulating skin (usually over the chest area), make excellent electronic covers or durable pads.
For now, there's no magic place that will remelt your suit into something new (I'm thinking like the Patagonia Common Threads thing), but neoprene is quite an unusual material to have on hand and should NOT be thrown into the trash. Donate the neoprene to Goodwill, or post it on Craigslist, if you don't feel like messing with it. But if you do want to give it a shot, may I make some suggestions???

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