What Is Neoprene, and Why Is It Bad?

What Is Neoprene, and Why Is It Bad?

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This page may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I have recommended. There is no additional cost to you whatsoever.

Image credit score: Patagonia
This put up accommodates some affiliate hyperlinks, which implies when you make a purchase order, EcoCult receives a small proportion of the sale value. Some manufacturers might have paid a small charge to be featured. We solely suggest manufacturers that we actually consider in. Support our editorial work by supporting them!

You would possibly affiliate browsing with environmental consciousness because of the nature of this water sport (and the nice work of the environmental nonprofit Surfrider Foundation). But despite many surfers supporting environmental causes, browsing has a monitor report of many unsustainable practices. 

Surfers journey usually to catch waves across the globe, burning a major quantity of petroleum, and the invention of a surf break in a small city in a growing nation, if not managed well, can deliver with it a deluge of plastic trash, water shortage, and the displacement of locals. 

Surf gear is predominantly created from non-biodegradable materials, comparable to nylon, and elastane, and boards from polyurethane or epoxy. According to the Surfboard Cradle-to-Grave Project by Tobias C. Schultz on the University of California, Berkeley, for the reason that Nineteen Fifties, surfboards transitioned from being created from wooden, redwood, cedar, and balsa to both a polyurethane foam core and unsaturated polyester resin (UPR) soaked in fiberglass pores and skin, or epoxy-resin-soaked fiberglass. Both kinds of surfboard development emit a major quantity of CO2 equal throughout their manufacture, use, and disposal, from 170 kilograms for a UPR-constructed surfboard to 250 kilograms for an epoxy-constructed surfboard. 

But we’re right here to speak about trend, so let’s talk about the wetsuit, which is made out of polychloroprene, a rubber, generally referred to as neoprene, a petrochemical cloth invented by DuPont within the Thirties. It is closely used within the browsing business as a result of it’s durable, elastic, warmth resistant, and totally waterproof, making it a great materials for wetsuits to insulate in opposition to moist and chilly environments. But trend manufacturers and common bathing swimsuit manufacturers have additionally been identified to include the spongy cloth into their merchandise. 

Like most petrochemical-derived materials, neoprene has a considerably unfavorable influence on the surroundings. It’s not biodegradable, and the outside attire firm Finisterre estimates approximately 419 tons get thrown away within the UK yearly.

Reports have additionally proven that its manufacturing has poisoned neighboring communities. Since 1968 DuPont emitted into the air the first element of neoprene, chloroprene, leaving residents close by crops in Louisville, Kentucky and Reserve, Louisiana complaining in regards to the chemical odors and diseases. The firm had reportedly identified since 1956 that the colorless gasoline “might enter the physique both by inhalation or by absorption by the pores and skin” inflicting “injury to important organs.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mentions that long-term publicity to chloroprene may additionally have an effect on the lungs, liver, kidneys, and immune system. The threat of most cancers from air toxicity in Reserve is now 50 times the nationwide common. But it wasn’t till 2008 that DuPont shuttered the Kentucky facility resulting from residents’ outrage over the location’s poisonous emissions. However, operations continue in Reserve, Louisiana, even after DuPont offered the Neoprene enterprise in 2015 to the Japanese firm Denka.

Now Californian Proposition 65 includes chloroprene amongst its checklist of carcinogens, requiring companies to find out if they need to present a warning on sure neoprene wetsuits.

Similarly, in 2009 the Environmental Working Group (EWG) named neoprene the allergen of the year, mentioning that neoprene merchandise could cause an allergic response when touching the pores and skin. “Avoiding the neoprene merchandise is the one answer as a result of protecting protecting of the offending materials is both impractical or inadequate,” mentioned the EWG report. 

Although some manufacturers have ditched the standard neoprene and switched to a model made out of chloroprene derived from limestone, a 2012 Patagonia report says that chloroprene derived from both petroleum or limestone have equally significant environmental impacts

Is There a Sustainable Alternative to Neoprene?

In 2008, Patagonia launched its wetsuits with the intent to develop a less-harmful various to neoprene. But it wasn’t till 2016 that Patagonia launched a pure rubber in partnership with Yulex, an Arizona-based provider of Forest Stewardship Councillicensed latex-free rubber. It’s a 100% plant-based pure rubber derived from hevea timber made in a zero-waste production process that emits 80% fewer carbon dioxide emissions than neoprene. Patagonia says Yulex neoprene is gentle, stretchy, but robust, all whereas nonetheless being good for the planet. 

Patagonia made Yulex out there to different manufacturers, with the hopes it will exchange neoprene throughout the business. So if you wish to hit the (chilly) waves in sustainable gear, you may have decisions! Here are the businesses utilizing it:

Patagonia was the primary surf firm to remove neoprene from its assortment. Now, Yulex pure rubber is the bottom polymer for all of its males’s, ladies’s, and youngsters’ fits, in addition to its gloves, booties, and hoods. Patagonia is dedicated to moral and clear manufacturing, so you’ll find out extra about the place your wetsuit was made proper on the product web page.

New York-based Ansea is an moral way of life model that creates a classy, female, and practical ocean put on and equipment. Its inaugural assortment contains luggage and wetsuits created from Yulex regionally produced in small batches in New York City and Los Angeles.

Made in Italy, Slo energetic is an ocean put on model with a swimwear and wetsuit line created from Yulex. The model converts its offcuts into hair ties, cling tags, and enterprise playing cards and sends a portion of them to its companions who use offcuts for diving equipment. SLO energetic works with a producer that makes use of water-based glue for the lamination of its materials, eliminating dangerous unstable natural compounds in them. Also, its fits are delivered in minimal recycled and compostable packaging.

Seea is a ladies’s surf model that mixes each retro design and trendy performance in its swimsuits and attire. In 2018, Seaa switched to Yulex with linings made out of recycled polyester and bonded with solvent-free adhesives. Seea’s dying plant is bluesign-certified, that means it follows strict tips by way of effectivity, waste disposal, and non-use of poisonous supplies. The model’s clothes are picked up from its manufacturing facility, enclosed in biodegradable luggage, and shipped from its warehouse to retailers and clients in recycled paper packaging. Although its web site mentions that every one of its swimwear and clothes is manufactured within the U.S., its latest Yulex assortment product web page states that they’re “Made in Thailand.” We reached out to the model for clarification, and as soon as we hear again, we’ll replace the put up.