Last week we got an email from Patagonia announcing the news. Polychloroprene (aka Neoprene) the material we’ve all used for 60+ years to stay warm is being removed from their entire wetsuit line.
A quick history and then we can talk new. Neoprene was invented by DuPont in 1930 by chlorinating and polymerizing butadiene, a petrochemical derived from crude oil. This process resulted in a material called polychloroprene (an unsexy process with an equally unsexy name) So DuPont renamed it and *poof* introducing Neoprene. Fast-forward to 1951 and surfers started sewing it into wetsuits to stay warm. Since then we’ve seen improvements in warmth and stretch but no real innovation in the core material.
When Patagonia got into wetsuits 11 years ago they always dreamed of lowering the industrial and ecological footprint in wetsuit creation. Their first big advancement was Merino Wool on the inside of the suit, then in 2015 a 60% Yulex/ 40% Neoprene combo – reducing Neoprene by 60%. Fast forward to today they have removed 100% of the Neoprene with good old natural rubber.
So how’d they do it? First, they found a rubber tree (Hevea tree) forest in Guatemala that was certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This means that the way the forest was planted, maintained, and rubber harvested meets all 57 criteria and 10 principles of the FSC – the gist of the principles are to support the natural ecosystem and bio-diversity.
Once the natural rubber is collected they take out almost all the water with a centrifuge. From there they ship the raw ingredient to the Yulex factory where it is purified to 99% pure. The team at Patagonia realized that in order to get the properties we surfers love (stretch/warmth/durability) they would need to mix 85% of the Yulex natural rubber with 15% chlorine-free synthetic rubber… viola – new wetsuit material.
Couple other epic things to point out.
- The suits are listed for sale on Patagonia.com and a Men’s Front Zip R2 is $449.00. Last years R2 was priced at $529.00. The new suit is 15% less expensive!
- During wetsuit production this suit produces 80% less CO2!
- Patagonia will continue it’s “Ironclad Guarantee” If it doesn’t perform to your satisfaction, we’ll take it back for replacement, refund or repair.
- They have decided to share the technology with the entire industry – woot!
We’re very happy to see the push to sustainable wetsuits, just like we’re stoked to see boardshorts made out of plastic bottles. We can’t wait to get our hands on an R2 and see how it stacks up against all the other suits (and previous R2’s) in our 2016 Winter Wetsuit Test. Stay tuned!Tags: Neoprene Free, Patagonia, Wetsuit