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Patagonia waves goodbye to neoprene with natural rubber wetsuits

Patagonia's new wetsuits use Yulex to cut down on the emissions involved in production 
Patagonia's new wetsuits use Yulex to cut down on the emissions involved in production 
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The inside of a Yulex wetsuit
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The inside of a Yulex wetsuit
Patagonia is offering the suits in hooded and non-hooded varieties
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Patagonia is offering the suits in hooded and non-hooded varieties
The suits are designed to be just as warm as a conventional suit
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The suits are designed to be just as warm as a conventional suit
Patagonia's new Yulex wetsuits
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Patagonia's new Yulex wetsuits
Patagonia wants to make your next trip to the green room a bit greener 
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Patagonia wants to make your next trip to the green room a bit greener 
The wetsuits are made from a plant-based polymer
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The wetsuits are made from a plant-based polymer
The suits range from 0°C to 24°C 
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The suits range from 0°C to 24°C 
Patagonia's new wetsuits use Yulex to cut down on the emissions involved in production 
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Patagonia's new wetsuits use Yulex to cut down on the emissions involved in production 

Neoprene is good at keeping surfers warm in the water, but producing it is a dirty business. Not only is the material non-renewable, but it's derived from petroleum or limestone, which means it's a product of mining or drilling. In an attempt to make your next session in the green room a bit greener, Patagonia's latest line of wetsuits drops neoprene in favor of natural rubber.

At the core of these new wetsuits is a new plant-based polymer called Yulex. It's derived from Hevea trees, grown on reclaimed land in Guatemala, and Patagonia says it reduces the amount of CO2 emitted in wetsuit manufacture by around 80 percent. Although the new polymer is reasonably resilient on its own, it still needs to be mixed with a "small amount" of synthetic rubber for improved durability and UV resistance.

"Surfers and wetsuit manufacturers - including Patagonia - have relied on neoprene for years, despite the fact that it's a nonrenewable, petroleum-based material with an energy-intensive manufacturing process," says Hub Hubbard, Patagonia wetsuit development manager. "Neoprene is nasty stuff, but for a long time we had no alternative. Through our partnership with Yulex we've invested in a plant-based game-changer and built it into our entire fullsuit line."

The wetsuits are made from a plant-based polymer
The wetsuits are made from a plant-based polymer

According to the team behind their development, the neoprene-free wetsuits are just as warm as a conventional one. Six different temperature ratings will be offered, ranging from 75°F (24°C) down to 32°F (0°C), and Patagonia says its new linings dry faster than before. There will be front and rear-zip options, although the company is adamant the floating front-zip offers better stretch, seal and mobility than the old-fashioned rear-zip options.

The range of Yulex wetsuits has just hit the American, European and Japanese markets. Pricing starts at US$299 for a short-sleeved full suit, and jumps to $329 for the cheapest long-sleeve offering.

A Patagonia video about the production of the suits is below.

Source: Patagonia

Patagonia’s New Natural Rubber Wetsuits

3 comments
Geoffrey
Here's the deal: Patagonia is using natural rubber (the same natural rubber (NR) that tire companies have been using in tires for a hundred years) because it is MUCH cheaper than Neoprene. They may charge more for NR suits and justify that because NR is 'green.' Natural rubber will wear out sooner than Neoprene, for one reason, because it is degraded by ozone which is generated by any electric motor and is part of our air pollution (unless they load it up with toxic anti-ozone chemicals). Neoprene is by far the better material for wet suits for many reasons. Of course, you will eventually have to pay even more for Neoprene wet suits (because Patagonia's declining profit margin on Neoprene suits will dictate that). I am not saying this is a bad thing. Just be aware that NR suits may not last as long. ...written by a retired polymer scientist.
MD
Ok now convert the world over to brushless motors for the same of ozone production... On the other hand, what of the working conditions of those involved in the Rubber industry, does patagonia ensure that they all get $20kp/a and a decent 401k, think not.
habakak
This doesn't move the needle. Patagonia produces only a fraction of worldwide wetsuits. It's just PR because everybody is so caught up in going 'green' to make themselves feel better about 'saving' the environment. EVERYTHING in our modern lives demands huge amounts of dirty energy and only cleaning up our energy production systems will lead to a better environment.