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Old, worn-out neoprene clothing can be recycled, but not melted down for reuse like metals, glass, and plastic. Neoprene can be recycled, upcycled, or downcycled into other products. Unfortunately, neoprene is non-biodegradable and will end up in a landfill at some point in its life cycle.
A long-term, real solution for recycling neoprene has not been reached.
Here’s what you can do to minimize the environmental impact of your neoprene clothing like wetsuits for kayaking, surfing, and scuba diving.
Recycling Neoprene vs Upcycling and Downcycling
The terms recycling, upcycling, and downcycling can be confusing and are often interchanged. Let’s define them for a greater understanding of reuse options for neoprene.
Recycling is a process when neoprene is sorted from other rubbish and processed at a recycling facility so it can be reused in a manufacturing process.
Recycled neoprene is often blended with other synthetic rubbers for use in a variety of products like workout mats and athletic shoes. These recycled products are often cheaper to produce and more environmentally friendly than producing new synthetic rubber materials.
Where recycling neoprene involves the destruction of wetsuits and other neoprene products to create something new, upcycling neoprene is the creation of something new from its current state. Upcycling is often a creative process often referred to as creative reuse or creative recycling.
Downcycling neoprene is the repeated recycling or upcycling of the material until it loses its potential for reuse. At this point, the neoprene has reached the end of its life cycle and ends up in a landfill.
How to Recycle Neoprene
Some recycling facilities accept certain materials that other facilities don’t. Do not put your neoprene products in a recycling bin without knowing if the facility can take neoprene.
You can always recycle your wetsuit or other neoprene water sports products at a company running a wetsuit recycling program.
Companies that Upcycle or Recycle Wetsuits
The following alphabetized companies recycle neoprene wetsuits and some also recycle other neoprene water sports products as well.
Pay attention to the larger wetsuit suppliers. Some offer discounts if you trade in your old wetsuit with them.
Enjoy Handplanes creates handplanes that are a true work of art. Broken surfboards make the core while neoprene from old wetsuits is used to make the handles.
Use the Enjoy Handplanes contact form to donate your old wetsuit.
Green Guru Gear
Green Guru Gear, in Boulder, CO, makes a wide variety of products from recycled bike tubes, climbing ropes, and old wetsuits. No neoprene booties, gloves, or hoods are accepted for recycling, only wetsuits.
Visit Green Guru Gear for shipping instructions.
KASSIA+SURF is a wetsuit company for women. They accept all wetsuit brands for upcycling into new and useful lifestyle products. Though they don’t upcycle the old wetsuits themselves, they do partner with Suga.
For recycling your old wetsuit through them, they offer discounts on purchases.
- 1 Suit = 10% off
- 2 Suits = 15% off
- 3 Suits = 20% off
Please visit their website for their Wetsuit Recycling Form and mailing address.
Lava Rubber recycles old wetsuits of all brands into yoga mats, utility mats, flip flops, coasters, and more. Donations can be sent to Lava Rubber, ATTN: UPCYCLE, 155 Steiner Ave., Suite B, Neptune City, NJ 07753.
Need Essentials repairs wetsuits to extend product life and accepts old wetsuits for donation to be recycled into children’s play area floor matting, gym floors, and exercise mats.
You can trade in gently used Patagonia products at their online Worn Wear store or you can recycle your items at a Patagonia store or mail them to the Patagonia Service Center – Recycle Program, 8550 White Fir St, Reno, NV 89523-8939. Just make sure they are cleaned beforehand.
In 2013, Patagonia released its first wetsuits made from Yulex. They no longer make neoprene wetsuits because of neoprene’s negative impact on the environment. Patagonia does, however, recycle its old neoprene products as well as the newer Yulex products.
Reborn Rubber makes wallets out of old wetsuits, hoods, and booties made from 2 – 3 millimeter neoprene. When you donate any brand wetsuit they will send you a wallet and your donation supports Ocean Conservancy. Your old wetsuit can provide up to $110 in ocean cleanup effort donations.
Rip Curl (Australia)
The neoprene is repurposed for use in soft fall matting on playgrounds and outdoor gyms.
Note: Only surf wetsuits are accepted, no booties, gloves, diving suits, and other neoprene products.
Suga manufactures top-quality yoga mats from recycled wetsuits. They accept all wetsuit brands and will provide you with a 10% discount in exchange for your wetsuit.
There are drop-off locations in California and Canada or you can mail your old wetsuit to Suga, LLC, 1106 2nd Street, Suite 862, Encinitas, CA 92024.
Wetsuit Wearhouse doesn’t recycle but they do support and forward old wetsuits to Suga. If you take your wetsuit to one of their locations or mail it to them they will give you 15% off your next purchase.
The Wetsuit Wearhouse recycling program is not currently in effect due to a backup of unclaimed suits though I have been told that it will be reinstated in the future. It’s worth checking with them if you want the discount otherwise you can reach out to Suga directly.
How to Upcycle Neoprene
If you are a creative person, you can upcycle your neoprene at home. With a little ingenuity, you can make any one of the following and more:
- Mouse pad
- Mat for pet food bowls
- Case for a laptop, tablet, GoPro, camera gear…
Donate Your Neoprene Products
If your old wetsuit still has some life in it, why not donate it to a charitable organization that helps the disadvantaged, underprivileged, troubled, youth, disabled, veterans, or another worthy person? There are many organizations that aim to help people in need.
Here are a few life-changing places that will accept your wetsuit as a donation:
- Amigos Marinos provides support to small-scale, Mexican dive fishermen with the tools to sustain their livelihood.
- AmpSurf helps disabled veterans, adults, and children heal both mentally and physically through adaptive surfing.
- MeWater Foundation works with troubled youth in the San Francisco Bay Area that come from backgrounds of poverty and violence.
- RERIP redistributes donated wetsuits to fellow surfers, artists, and DIY enthusiasts.
- Surfpop in Cape Town, South Africa positively influences at-risk children and youth from disadvantaged communities by introducing them to surfing.
- Valpo Surf Project in Valparaíso, Chile positively impacts their community by working with youth affected by violent crime, drug abuse, and chronic unemployment in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
- Warm Current hosts local community surf camps on the Washington coast for Native Indian youth.
Sell Your Neoprene Products
Want to get a little money for a wetsuit or other neoprene product that still has a little life left? I get that. There are plenty of ways to sell your old wetsuit…
- Facebook Marketplace
- Craigslist or other classified ad sites
- Apps like OfferUp
- Local dive schools
Buy High-Quality Neoprene Products
My grandfather that worked for the Game and Fish Commission loved nature and taught me a lot about life. His advice about products was to buy the very best you can afford. High-quality products will last longer and will typically save you money over the long term.
Buying a high-quality wetsuit with the most sustainable materials and technologies you can afford, prevents waste, saves you money in the long term, and is an environmentally responsible choice.
The first rule would be to buy a black wetsuit. Black will not fade as easily, it is a more environmentally friendly pigment, and it won’t go out of fashion as quickly as colored neoprene.
Take Care of Your Neoprene Products
Neoprene is durable. If you take proper care of a wetsuit it can last you ten plus years.
- Keep your wetsuit or other neoprene product out of the sun when not in use.
- Store it properly.
- Never put neoprene in a washer or dryer.
- Clean it regularly with a neoprene-safe cleaner and conditioner and let it air dry.
For more about how to take care of a wetsuit, check out, “How To Clean And Store Your Wetsuit”.
Repair or Alter Your Neoprene Product
Wetsuit repair or repairs to neoprene booties, gloves, hoods, fishing waders, and more can extend the life of your gear, save you money, and reduce your ecological footprint. All you need for fixing small holes or tears is a wetsuit repair kit or a piece of neoprene from an old product and a suitable adhesive.
If an arm or leg of your wetsuit has been severely damaged, you can always modify your suit by cutting off the arms or legs to make a shorty wetsuit.
You can help protect our environment and help others by recycling and upcycling your old neoprene products.
Use → Recycle → Reuse