Wetsuits are built to last, but they’re not indestructible. Over time, those once-solid and stretchy fabrics will deteriorate, leaving you with something that looks a little worse for wear and is incapable of keeping you warm.
When that happens, it’s time to buy a new wetsuit, but what should you do with your old one?
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Can I Just Trash An Old Wetsuit?
Wetsuits are not good for the environment. They are made from a synthetic rubber known as neoprene, and this is derived from non-renewable sources (either petroleum or limestone). The manufacturing process is very damaging to the environment, and the harm doesn’t stop there.
Neoprene doesn’t biodegrade, so it can’t simply be added to a compost heap as you wait for Mother Nature to do her thing. As a result, simply discarding your use wetsuit means you’re contributing to the problem and tossing aside a synthetic product that will eventually find its way to a landfill.
How Do You Dispose Of Wetsuits?
To make sure your old wetsuit doesn’t end up in a landfill, try one of the following options:
Donate Your Wetsuit
If your wetsuit still has some life in it, consider donating it. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, after all.
There are thousands of community projects aimed at getting kids and adults into activities like surfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
These include youth development programs to get kids off the street, training programs to teach adults how to surf and swim, and programs that help disabled people of all ages.
AmpSurf is one such program and it is based in the United States. It helps disabled children to surf and swim and takes wetsuits, surfboards, booties, and other outdoor gear.
Run a search in your local area to find more companies where you can donate your wetsuit.
Chop it Up for Parts
If your old and washed-up wetsuit is completely past its best, consider chopping it up and keep the best pieces as patches.
Usually, there will be areas that are much more worn than others, typically around the chest and armpit areas, as well as other areas that are prone to stretching and pressure. This means that even the most damaged wetsuits will have salvageable patches.
These patches can be removed and saved for a later date—perfect for when your new wetsuit rips.
Not only are you reusing parts of your old wetsuit, but you’re also saving your new one and, potentially, reducing the need to discard and make another purchase.
Send Your Wetsuit to Be Upcycled
Some commercial brands and local suppliers will take your tattered wetsuits and turn them into something special. You can give them away as an act of goodwill (both for the company and the environment) or as a means of securing a discount.
You can’t simply expect them to make you something special and then give you it for free, as they’ll need to invest their own time and materials into the project, but you could get a big discount on a great product.
SugaMats is a great example. It makes yoga mats from old wetsuits and offers a 10% discount to anyone who donates a wetsuit through one of their drop-box locations in Canada and California.
You can also send your wetsuit to the company directly, although what you gain with a discount, you’ll probably lose by paying for shipping (the yoga mats cost around $80, so the discount is just $8).
Visit this page to learn more about SugaMats and to find the drop box locations and shipping address.
Lava Rubber works in much the same way, and in addition to yoga mats, it also makes flip flops. You can send your old wetsuits to Lava Rubber using the address on this page.
Green Guru Gear is another good option. The About Us page states that the company gets most of its products direct from brands like Patagonia, but it also invites customers to become part of this sustainable chain.
Visit the Green Guru Gear website for more information.
Other options include:
- Reborn Rubber: Turns wetsuits into slim wallets. If you donate your wetsuit, you can get a free wallet.
- Wetsuit Warehouse: Although this company doesn’t upcycle wetsuits, it will accept a donation and then send it on to Suga, giving you a discount on a new wetsuit in the process.
If these companies aren’t quite what you’re looking for, check around the local area and see if there are any companies that will take your old wetsuit and give you something in return.
Depending on its condition, it could be valuable, but don’t assume that it’s worth anywhere near what you paid for it. It’s not like scrapping a car and dealers won’t be queueing up to take it from you and pay you for the pleasure.
Most of the time, the companies that upcycle wetsuits and other neoprene products work directly with major manufacturers and retailers, as that way they get more products, deal with fewer customers, and don’t have to worry about wetsuits that are too damaged, old, or smelly.
Upcycle Your Wetsuit
If you can’t find someone to make use of your old wetsuit, upcycle it yourself! Depending on the state of the wetsuit, as well as your competence level, you could make all kinds of useful items. You can keep these items for yourself, give them away as gifts, or sell them on sites like Etsy.
Some of the options for upcycling old wetsuits include:
Waterproof Cases and Backpacks
The neoprene in used wetsuits is still strong, stretchy, and waterproof, and so it makes for the perfect case material.
It can be used to create a protective case for your laptop, phone, camera, and other equipment.
You may need to incorporate some other materials, including a little padding for the inside and a handle for easy transport, but the neoprene can serve as the main material.
A Cover for a Water Bottle
Take a knife to that used wetsuit, cut a section that is a little shorter than an A4 piece of paper, and then roll it around a water bottle. Once you stitch it together and create a little handle, you have the perfect cover!
One of the easiest ways to refuse your old wetsuit is to make a doormat. It could also be used as the bottom half of a doormat, providing the grippy surface.
Another simple way to upcycle is to make a mouse pad. There isn’t much call for mouse pads these days as most people use their phones, and when they do use computers, they tend to stick with laptop trackpads. But if you’re a gamer or know someone who is, you’ll also have a use for mouse pads.
How Long Do Wetsuits Last?
A wetsuit can last anywhere from 3 to 10 years on average.
Generally, however, its lifespan will depend on its quality and how often it is used. If you buy a cheap suit and use it every day, it’ll probably start to experience issues within a year. If you buy a high-quality wetsuit and use it sparingly, there’s no reason why it can’t last for over 10 years.
To prolong the life of your wetsuit, don’t place it under unnecessary stress when removing it and putting it on. And if you want to avoid buying another suit a couple of years from now, look for the best one that you can afford for your budget.
Can a Wetsuit Be Recycled?
Neoprene can be repurposed and upcycled, making everything from laptop cases to flip flops and other beach accessories. You can do this yourself or you can find a company that will do the work for you, giving you a discount or a freebie in exchange.
Check out the options listed in the guide above for more information.
Why Can’t I Just Throw My Wetsuit Away?
You can simply discard your wetsuit, but you probably shouldn’t. Wetsuits are made from a non-biodegradable material and so you’re just contributing to a growing problem that’s harming the environment.
Furthermore, a wetsuit is an expensive investment. It’s something that many disadvantaged children and adults can’t afford, and something that may still have value even if t’s old and torn. By donating it, you could be making someone’s day; by upcycling it, you could be creating something amazing.
If you simply toss it in the trash, you’re missing out on all of that.