Surfrider Pacific Rim’s youth co-ordinator Alys Hoyland, left, and chapter manager Lilly Woodbury pack up the last of the worn out wetsuits with Far West Distributors team Scott Johnson and John De Vries on Nov.27. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

Surfrider Pacific Rim hopes unique wetsuit recycling program stays local to the Coast

“We really want to see someone locally or regionally take this on and use this material locally.”

Like Santa’s little helpers, Surfrider Pacific Rim crew was busy stuffing giant cardboard boxes with tattered wetsuits at the Far West Distributors warehouse in Ucluelet last week.

The cargo of raggedy neoprene is destined for Southern California where it will be turned into yoga mats for American company SUGA.

Since launching the wetsuit reincarnation program a couple years ago, Surfrider alongside a few of the local surf shops—Surf Sister, Pacific Surf, and Relic—has recycled about 4.5 tonnes of wetsuits, booties, and gloves.

Despite the success of diverting the used neoprene from landfill, Surfrider Pacific Rim has put it on their 2020 wish list to keep the worn out wetsuits on the Coast in order to reduce the carbon footprint from trucking them all the way to California.

“We would love to create a program were instead we recycle these [wetsuits] here locally and use them for our own economy, our own products, our own uses,” said Surfrider Pacific Rim chapter chair Kerry Harwood.

Chapter manager Lilly Woodbury re-iterated.

“In a true circular economy, we are not shipping our waste all over the world. We are using it locally as a resource. This Island produces a lot of neoprene between all the different outdoor recreational activities, so there is a huge commercial opportunity for someone to take these wetsuits and turn them into yoga mats or playground mats, all different kinds of products. They can be used for tons of different things. That’s what we are hoping. We really want to see someone locally or regionally take this on and use this material locally,” said Woodbury.

The greater vision of the reincarnation program, said Woodbury, is to ultimately put the responsibility of the ‘end of life’ back on the surf companies.

“What needs to happen is that shift needs to go from the consumer back onto the manufacturer. So, ideally, all the surf companies are going to be responsible for collecting those suits at the end of their life. The way they could do that is to have a deposit on the suits similar to what we have on bottle deposit rate,” she explained.

“Ideally, those companies would turn those wetsuits back into new wetsuits or another functional product. That will make the whole supply chain more efficient and less wasteful because they will have to figure out the end of life. They will have to consider the whole life cycle of the product,” said Woodbury.

READ: Surfrider cheers ocean friendly businesses in Tofino and Ucluelet

Scott Johnson, managing partner at Far West Distributors, said Far West is very happy to host and support Surfrider’s wetsuit program. Since 2017, Far West has provided the facility and equipment to warehouse and transport the hundreds of wetsuits, booties, and gloves.

“It feels great to know that all of that neoprene does not end up in our landfill,” said Johnson. “The program also aligns with our ongoing commitment to provide the local business community with products that are as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible.”

Most recently, Far West started carrying bamboo cutlery, bamboo coffee cups with paper lids, and sugar compostable containers.

Worn wetsuits can be dropped off at Far West or Relic Surf Shop in Ucluelet or at Surf Sister and Pacific Surf School in Tofino. Surfrider asks that the used gear be rinsed and dried thoroughly prior to drop off.

If you have an idea for recycling the neoprene locally, send a message to: lwoodbury@canada.surfrider.org.



nora.omalley@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

READ MORE: Tofino and Ucluelet open zero-waste refill stations

RELATED: Island surfer wins historic medal for Canada

RecyclingSurfriderTofino,ucluelet

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ucluelet releases COVID-19 Recovery Plan

Part of the recovery plan involves deploying three district staff as COVID-19 Community Monitors

Tofino mayor urges “kindness” as tourism reopens

“Health and safety matters to everyone.”

Resorts in Tofino and Ucluelet prepare to reopen in June

“We need to get the tourist economy in our communities back up and running.”

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve plans limited reopening on June 4

The Park Reserve shut down on March 18 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Pacific Rim Hospice Society gifting free wellness “check-ins” to all West Coast residents

“This pandemic has led to a lot of isolation and it’s helpful for anybody just to have a soundboard.”

Only four new COVID-19 cases, 228 active across B.C.

Health officials watching as activities ramp up

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

B.C. aquaculture farm’s employees sweat it out to raise funds for food banks

For every five minutes of exercise recorded, Cermaq Canada is donating a dollar to local food banks in communities they operate

Condition in kids with possible COVID-19 link being studied in Canada

This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to doctors about MIS-C

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

COVID cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a BC mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Stepdad able to walk bride down the aisle days before he passes away

Ceremony held amidst pandemic in order to fulfill bride’s wish to have stepdad give her away

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

State of Local Emergency declared for Boundary as communities brace for river flooding

Warm weather and heavy rain could cause sections of Kettle River system to swell beyond 2018 levels

Most Read