Patagonia said it’s a groundbreaking innovation that doubles down on its initial entry into natural rubber in 2014 of the Yulex wetsuit offering from two to 21 full-length suits for men, women and kids.
The entire line of Patagonia’s new high-performance wetsuits is made with natural rubber developed in partnership with Yulex and FSC and certified by the Rainforest Alliance. The certification assures customers that the source plantation isn’t contributing to deforestation, and that it’s managed in a way that maintains the ecological functions and integrity of the forest. The Rainforest Alliance, an international nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods, with a focus on tropical landscapes, performs audits to confirm that the plantation adheres to the FSC’s standards on the ground.
“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,” said Hub Hubbard, Patagonia’s 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 Neoprene-free Yulex wetsuits perform as well or better than conventional Neoprene wetsuits, said Ventura-Calif.-based Patagonia, but because the main polymer is produced in trees instead of factories, using natural rubber reduces the carbon dioxide emitted in wetsuit manufacturing by up to 80 percent. The FSC certified rubber is blended with a small amount of chlorine-free synthetic rubber for increased ozone and UV resistance, and to meet Patagonia’s rigorous demands for durability and strength. The Yulex process also removes over 99 percent of impurities, resulting in a nonsensitizing material.
The new plant-based polymer pioneered by Yulex is sourced from Guatemala, where hevea trees are grown on reclaimed farmland. Hevea has long been the source for the most demanding rubber applications, including car and airplane tires. Some of the world’s supply, though, is grown in newly clear-cut rainforest zones, making the rubber industry a major driver of deforestation in tropical countries. Patagonia avoided using hevea until a more sustainable source could be found.
As with their previous work, Patagonia and Yulex are again sharing this groundbreaking innovation with other companies, hoping to create a shift toward cleaner and less harmful materials throughout the surf industry. The release of the new line is the result of a decade of Patagonia’s work in developing alternatives to Neoprene.
“Yulex could not have found a better partner than Patagonia to champion this breakthrough for the surf industry,” said Jeff Martin, chief executive officer of Yulex Corp. “The collaboration between our companies has been an example of how sustainable products can be brought to customers without sacrificing performance and cost competitiveness. Patagonia has an exemplary business model which Yulex and others continue to embrace.”
Patagonia wetsuits are available for purchase at Patagonia Surf stores, select surf shops and at patagonia.com.