Recycling your old wetsuit when it is at the end of its useful life is a great way to give it a second home. You don’t need to throw it in the trash or send it to the landfill.
It is a great time in history to be a surfer or water sport enthusiast because there are so many innovative companies and charities that will help recycle your old wetsuit when it is no longer working for you.
A surfer friend recently asked, “How Do You Recycle a Wetsuit?”
Recycling your old wetsuit is easy! Surfers can recycle it through different organizations, donate it to charity, pass it on to a friend or repurpose it into other useful items. Today, several companies offer incentives in the form of discounts when you recycle your old wetsuit.
Keep reading for some tips on how to give your old wetsuit a second life when your are done with it!
Why Recycling is Important
Recycling is important because it helps protect the environment.
Recycling is the process of converting waste into new materials, as well as, using a product again in its original form.
Recycling saves energy, conserves natural resources and reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills.
As surfers, the ocean environment is our playing field and making eco-conscious decisions will help us protect the waves!
The expected life of a surfing wetsuit is 1-5 years, depending on how often it is used. With millions of surfers wearing wetsuits in the world, that is a lot of potential waste created in a relatively short amount of time.
Because most wetsuits are made from neoprene, it will take years to break down in a landfill. If you plan on surfing for many years (you should because it’s fun!), you will probably go through dozens of wetsuits in your surfing career.
I am not here to lecture anyone and I can only speak for myself but I wanted to share some tips to make recycling easy for surfers!
How to Recycle Your Old Wetsuit
Recyling your old wetsuit when it’s at the end of its functional life is a great way to keep it out of the landfill and support a process where it will become material for a new product.
To learn more about wetsuit recycling, I contacted most of the major surf brands. After the initial search, I branched out and started to find other companies that have wetsuit recycling programs.
I was surprised with the large number of organizations that work together to collect and redistribute wetsuits to be turned into raw materials to make other cool products.
Here are the list of companies with wetsuit recycling programs that I found:
Green Guru Gear makes eco friendly bags and accessories from recycled materials. They accept all brands of wetsuits through their recycling program and manufacture products in Boulder, CO, USA.
KASSIA+SURF is a wetsuit, surf apparel and accessory company for women. It was created by Kassia Meador, a professional surfer from California. They accept all brands of wetsuits through their recycling program and offer a 10% discount on your next purchase when you send in a wetsuit to be recycled.
Lava Rubber is a company that takes old wetsuits and other scraps to make yoga mats, trunk liners and utility mats that are hand made in the USA. Lava Rubber accepts all brands of wetsuits through their recycling program.
Need Essentials is a wetsuit and apparel company that was created as an alternative to the large companies with big marketing budgets. By reducing markups (products are available online only), logos, branding, and sponsorship, Need Essentials creates high quality products at a reasonable price. The wetsuit recycling program accepts Need Essentials wetsuits only.
Patagonia is an outdoor clothing, wetsuit and gear company. Patagonia is focused on creating high quality products while using business success to reduce the impacts on nature.
Patagonia’s wetsuits don’t contain neoprene and are made from Yulex, a natural rubber produced by Hevea trees. Their wetsuit recycling program accepts Patagonia wetsuits only. You can drop off old Patagonia wetsuits at any Patagonia store or mail them back to the company.
Reborn Rubber uses old wetsuits to make new minimalist wallets. Because the wallets are made from neoprene, they float (even when loaded with cards). Reborn Rubber accepts all brands of wetsuits through their recycling program and they will ship you a free wallet for every wetsuit recycled.
Rip Curl is a surf apparel, wetsuit and watch company. Rip Curl is one of the largest surfing companies in the world.
After contacting Rip Curl, I was told that they have a wetsuit recycling program that accepts Rip Curl wetsuits only. As well, they offered 30% off the next purchase when a wetsuit was sent back for recycling.
SUGA makes premium yoga mats in the USA out of recycled wetsuits. The name (SUGA) is a combination of ‘surfing’ and ‘yoga’ to represent the connection between the two sports.
SUGA advertises the wetsuits recycled to date (12,574) and tons of neoprene diverted from landfills (32 tons) on their website. They collects all brands of wetsuits and offer 10% off your next purchase for every wetsuit recycled.
The Surfrider Foundation is an environmental non-profit organization that is dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans, waves and beaches.
Surfrider was founded by a group of surfers and now has approximately 190 chapters and clubs and thousands of members around the world.
Surfrider (Pacific Rim) partnered with SUGA and local surf shops in Tofino & Ucluelet, BC, Canada to collect old wetsuits and send them off to be recycled into yoga mats.
Contact the Surfrider Foundation here to find out if a chapter near you has a wetsuit recycling program.
Wetsuit Wearhouse is a retailer specializing in wetsuits for a wide range of water sports, including, surfing, wakeboarding, triathlon, kayaking and SCUBA diving.
Wetsuit Wearhouse accepts all brands of wetsuits for recycling (they forward them to SUGA) and offers 15% off your next purchase.
For quick reference, I created a summary table of the wetsuit recycling programs discussed above including any discounts/incentives that are currently offered. *Discounts may be subject to change.
|Company||Incentives/Discounts on Your Next Purchase||What wetsuit brands do they accept for recycling?|
|Green Guru Gear||N/A||Accepts all brands of wetsuits|
|KASSIA+SURF||10-20% off next purchase||Accepts all brands of wetsuits|
|Lava Rubber||N/A||Accepts all brands of wetsuits|
|Need Essentials||N/A||Accepts Need Essentials wetsuits only|
|Patagonia||N/A||Accepts Patagonia wetsuits only|
|Reborn Rubber||Free reborn wallet for every wetsuit recycled||Accepts all brands of wetsuits|
|Rip Curl||30% off next purchase||Accepts Rip Curl wetsuits only|
|SUGA||10% off next purchase||Accepts all brands of wetsuits|
|Surfrider Foundation (Pacific Rim)||N/A||Accepts all brands of wetsuits|
|Wetsuit Wearhouse||15% off next purchase||Accepts all brands of wetsuits|
How to Donate Your Old Wetsuit
Another great strategy for older wetsuits that have some functional life remaining is to donate them to a non-profit organization.
There are lots of different charities that are focused on providing opportunities and making the sport more accessible for youth and people new to surfing.
Check out the table below for organizations that support important initiatives and accept donated wetsuits (and other related surf gear).
|Amigos Marinos||Provides support for small scale Mexican fishermen with the tools to sustain their livelihood and protect coastal resources||http://www.amigosmarinos.org/|
|AmpSurf||Focused on supporting people with disabilities through surf therapy.||http://ampsurf.org/|
|RERIP||Keeping surf gear out of landfills while promoting sustainability in surfing.||https://www.rerip.org/|
|Resurf||Helping underprivileged children all over the world through surfing||https://resurf.com/|
|Warm Current||Making Surfing More Accessible and fun for Native Youth on the Washington Coast||http://www.warmcurrent.org/|
|Salvation Army/Goodwill Thrift Store||Giving used goods a new life||Local Drop Off|
To find non-profit organizations in your area, consider asking your local surf shop for recommendations.
In my area, a small organization collects used wetsuits (and other surf related gear) to help teach First Nations youth the sport of surfing.
Although the program doesn’t have a website, there are postings on regional online message boards providing information on how to donate wetsuits and support the program.
In you live in a coastal area, there are probably small non-profit organizations, community organizations and surfing associations that are operating to further the sport of surfing by supporting youth and other individuals and redistributing donated wetsuits.
Just look around and do some digging and you will be surprised (just like I was!) with the number of organizations accepting wetsuit donations.
Pass on Your Old Wetsuit to A Friend
You may think your old wetsuit has very little value but it may become the prized possession of someone within your friend or family circle.
The suggestion to pass along your worn wetsuit reminds me of an old saying, “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”
If you are a surfer that chases waves in the winter in North America, you will need a good quality wetsuit to keep you warm. When your wetsuit becomes worn and no longer provides warmth in the winter, you can start using it as your summer wetsuit.
This is the basic rotation I follow in an effort to try and get the most use out of my wetsuits.
I will buy a new wetsuit for the winter and use if for 2-3 seasons. Once it becomes worn and no longer keeps me warm in the winter, I will start using it as my summer wetsuit. After a couple of seasons of summer use, I will pass it along to a friend, family member or someone I know that is learning to surf.
I usually have 2-4 wetsuits in the rotation and will pass along a wetsuit after 4-5 years.
At the end of 4-5 years, there is still enough life left in the wetsuit for it to be used for a couple of summer seasons. Passing along an older wetsuit is a great way to support a young surfer or someone looking to get into the sport.
To find a second home for your older wetsuits, ask your friends and family if they know anyone, reach out to other surfers or talk to people on the beach.
Recently, I gave away an older wetsuit to a young person that was learning to surf. The wetsuit was at the end of it’s functional life for me but it had lots of life left for him!
Just make a little effort and you will be suprised how quickly you will be able to pass along your wetsuit to someone in need.
If you don’t know any surfers, consider posting a “free wetsuit” on an online forum. Surfing is an expensive sport and there are plenty of surfers that would would put your second hand wetsuit to good use.
Repurpose your Old Wetsuit into Useful Items
If you are feeling creative or you like the challenge of Do-it-Yourself (DYI) projects, repurposing your old wetsuit is an inexpensive way to make useful items from neoprene.
All you need is a pair of scissors, wetsuit cement, a needle and some thread (or dental floss). A sewing machine can make it easier for some projects but you can still make some great items without one.
The most popular things to make out of old wetsuits are mouse pads, beer koozies (or cozy), oven mitts and lap top cases.
Make sure to wash your wetsuit with wetsuit shampoo or mild soap to make sure it is free of dirt, sand, salt etc. before you start your project.
For some tips on how to make a neoprene lap top case out of your old wetsuit below, watch the video below.
Another way to get more use out of an old wetsuit is to just cut off the arms or legs (or both) above the elbow or knee and use your wetsuit for surfing in warmer conditions.
Recycling your old wetsuit when it is at the end of its useful life is worth the small amount of effort it takes to keep it out of the landfill.
The surfing community is stronger when we work together to extend the life of surf related products.
Passing it on to people or organizations that will reuse or recycle it is a great way to support initiatives that give opportunities to others while protecting the environment.
Recycle and give your wetsuit a second life!