Neoprene November! What’s it all about?

October 26, 2022 3 min read

wetsuits hanging on a rail in front of a Cornwall beach scene

Neoprene is the trade name given to polychloroprene rubber. Neoprene has immensely varied uses due to its high resistance to temperature and degradation. This makes it the ideal material for wetsuits and other watersports gear – it’s insulating, hardwearing and versatile.

The problem is that neoprene is so robust that it is non-biodegradable – so non-biodegradable that one of its purposes is to line landfills. Ironically, this is where an estimated 8,380 wetsuits are destined to head, discarded and unused, every year. The other issue is that neoprene, unlike other materials, is almost impossible to reuse or repurpose in a meaningful way. As neoprene gets older, it loses its stretch, so although products could be created, their ‘second life’ would be limited. In order for it to be destroyed, neoprene must be incinerated, which results in large amounts of pollution being released into the atmosphere, and the manufacturing process is equally harmful.

As we researched further into the seemingly hopeless reality of neoprene, we became increasingly concerned. As scuba divers, we need to stay warm underwater, and there are not many alternatives to neoprene. A few suppliers have recently produced wetsuits made of an alternative material, Yulex, which, if proven successful, could be a much safer alternative in the future. However, it is not yet being produced widely and there are still thousands of neoprene wetsuits and other products that have fulfilled their use and are now at risk of further harming the environment. It was this concern that made us look for a solution – we needed a way to recycle wetsuits that is both safe for the environment and widely accessible.

The founders of the neoprene recycling and manufacturing leader, Circular Flow, have been researching and developing a solution to this problem for the last six years. Finally, they have found an effective way to connect the particles from shredded wetsuits without removing the textile laminate, resulting in production of a stable and durable recycled material capable of being used to manufacture a wide range of products. They are now ready to launch their scheme to safely reprocess waste neoprene material. Here is how it works and how WE plan to help this important cause this coming November:

  1. PADI have partnered with Circular Flow to offer a FREE collection service from PADI dive centres across the UK, including Aquanauts. Customers (and friends) can drop off any unused wetsuits and other neoprene products at Aquanauts throughout the whole of November. They will be picked up by DHL on 1st December.
  2. Materials will be taken to the Circular Flow factory in Bulgaria.
  3. With their brand partner, Circular Flow will design and develop a range of recycled neoprene products.
  4. QR codes will be added to products and new products shipped to the brand partner.
  5. At the end of its second life, customer can use the QR code to ship product back to be recycled... and the process begins again!

So, please: spread the word and together we can prevent neoprene being dumped in landfill or incinerated. Scuba divers are ambassadors of the underwater world and, by showing an example of success in this effort to recycle neoprene, we really CAN make a difference.

For more practical ways to protect the ocean we live in, eco-friendly products and more, make sure to check out our previous blog

Lizzie Chapman
Lizzie Chapman

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