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The world’s first fully recyclable wet suit could save oceans—it just needs to be invented

The world’s first fully recyclable wet suit could save oceans—it just needs to be invented
[Photo: Julian Dufort/Unsplash]

In theory, people who devote hours of their lives learning to scuba-dive or surf, only to devote more hours traveling to far-flung destinations to use those new skills while engaging in the undignified tussle of getting in or out of a wet suit each time, must really love the ocean. Why else would you spend hours, days, weeks of your life clambering around in skintight attire while actively working to not drown in a body of water seemingly intent on doing you in?

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Nothing but love makes you that silly.

Now a British outdoor apparel company is putting that theory into practice, working to make the world’s first fully recyclable wet suit. Finisterre was founded by Tom Kay 15 years ago, and it has been making its sleek suits out of a biodegradable rubber called Econyl, a recycled nylon made from discarded fishing nets and carpet tiles, for awhile now.

But that’s not enough anymore. Over the past 18 months, the company has been focused on figuring out how to make wet suits from wet suits and create the world’s first fully recyclable wet suit along the way. While they haven’t cracked the problem quite yet, according to a company profile in The Guardian, they are getting closer thanks to hiring a woman they believe is the world’s only full-time wet-suit recycling innovator, Jenny Banks.

Banks is trying to develop a process to create a fully recyclable wet suit but is running into a black box of research. According to The Guardian, “conventional wetsuits can contain as many as 15 different materials that are nearly impossible to separate at the end of a suit’s life,” and there reportedly isn’t much research into the process. Either the manufacturing companies are keeping a tight grip on research into wet-suit properties, or they simply haven’t bothered trying to innovate on the basic wet suit since they were invented back in 1952.

That means Banks is more or less starting from scratch as she tries to design a wet suit that is effective, recyclable, stylish, and hopefully not too expensive so customers will actually buy it.

The project is taking longer than they initially planned, but they are seeing progress and hopefully a forward-thinking outdoor apparel company (*cough* Patagonia) would like to help fund their mission to innovate the wet-suit industry and save the seas they love.

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