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Dan Ross wettie-testing, Bells Beach. Pic: Christa Funk

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Mackenzie Warner, Jason McCaffrey and Hub Hubard.

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Yulex farm, Finca Palafox, Guatemala. Pics: Tim Davis

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Gopal Butler at Patagonia Haleiwa store repairs. Pic: Christa Funk

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Dulce Soto at the Patagonia Wetsuit Forge, Ventura. Pic: Tim Davis

Patagonia develops first end-of-life solution for wetsuits

10 July 24

TORQUAY, Victoria (June 13, 2024) – Patagonia, as the industry leader in environmentally and socially responsible surf gear, is proud to share the co-development of a groundbreaking circular solution for wetsuits with Bolder Industries. Earlier this year, Patagonia began collecting end-of-life Yulex® (natural rubber) wetsuits so that they could be broken down at the molecular level by Bolder Industries to be used as carbon black in the dyeing process of future Yulex® wetsuits.

Carbon black is used to dye the wetsuits' recycled nylon lining and accounts for about 15 - 20% of Patagonia wetsuits’ rubber foam. Production of Bolder Industries’ BolderBlack® uses 90%+ less water and emits 90%+ fewer greenhouse gases than traditional carbon black. With recent adoptions of Yulex® by other wetsuit brands, Patagonia hopes to see this collection program grow as more Yulex® wetsuits enter the market, contributing to circularity.

Patagonia’s journey into less toxic, neoprene-free alternatives in wetsuit materials began when they partnered with Yulex® in 2008 to develop a bio-based rubber as a replacement for Neoprene. This wetsuit rubber comes from the sap of the hevea tree, instead of crude oil or limestone. Four years later, they released their first neoprene-free wetsuit, and first ever Yulex® wetsuits; and in 2014, they gave the game-changing biorubber recipe to the wetsuit industry at large. 

In 2020, Patagonia built an on-site wetsuit research, development and repair center, called the Wetsuit Forge, to put their best repair and design minds under one roof. The level of collaboration rose as the teams could take their learnings from the most common repairs, use it to influence the design of their new Yulex® Regulator® wetsuits, and test prototypes at the local breaks in Ventura, Calif. In 2023, these wetsuits were updated with new materials and designs and are now better performing, more flexible, and easier to repair. They have a lifetime warranty and now have an end-of-life solution. 

Patagonia collects end-of-life wetsuits in their Wetsuit Forge, where zippers are removed, and the suits are shipped to Bolder Industries. Here carbon black is extracted from the wetsuits and other rubber scraps such as car tires. The reclaimed material then goes to Patagonia’s manufacturer, Sheico, where the new wetsuits are manufactured. The first Patagonia wetsuits containing reclaimed BolderBlack® are set to go on sale in the summer of 2025. 

Anyone can bring their end-of-life Yulex® wetsuit to their local Patagonia store. As a courtesy to employees, Patagonia requests that wetsuits be washed and thoroughly dried before they are dropped off or mailed in.

Hub Hubbard, Patagonia Surf Product Line Manager: 

“We hope that this breakthrough in recycling and circularity will go well beyond the surf industry and will eventually be implemented across countless product sectors. We have successfully piloted this program using reclaimed carbon black (RCB) from retired Yulex® wetsuits as a main component in wetsuits and that cycle can repeat indefinitely. Yes, other brands have offered wetsuit collections for recycling, but the wetsuits have so far only been broken down mechanically into things like yoga mats and playground material. We are constantly working to reduce our impact and share solutions within the industry. Currently, we are collaborating with multiple brands to convert their wetsuits to Yulex® and implement this program with Bolder Industries, providing a sustainable end-of-life solution.”

Jason McCaffrey, Director of Patagonia Surf: 

“The larger adoption of Yulex® by major wetsuit brands has been amazing. This end-of-life solution through our partnership with Bolder Industries is just one more benefit of using natural rubber.”

Mackenzie Warner, Patagonia Material Developer: 

“At Patagonia, we strive to build the best products and constantly improve everything we do by developing new ways to do things. While collaborating on this material with Bolder Industries, we discovered that recovered carbon black from rubber scraps and Yulex® wetsuits can be utilized to not only solution dye wetsuit materials but also black fabrics and trims to make products such as packs and jackets. We are excited to continue to find new ways to use this innovative new material and share it with industry”. 

 - News from Patagonia, Torquay HQ

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