4 ways to recycle your old wetsuits

Unless you're lucky enough to live in the tropics, you probably wear a wetsuit when you surf, swim or dive in the ocean. Eventually, even the highest-quality wetsuit will start to show wear: unraveled seams, broken tapes, ragged edges or small holes.

You’ll notice when cold drips trickle in through the breaches, bringing on early chills that cut your water time short.

Most wetsuits are made of standard neoprene, a synthetic rubber derived from petroleum products. If you don’t want to pitch that spent wetsuit in the trash, what else can you do?

Make yourself a “new” wetsuit

An easy way to expand your wetsuit quiver. Photo: Cynthia Replogle

If the body of your fullsuit is still in decent shape but the extremities are getting tattered, turn it into a warmer-water suit.

Simply mark first with the wetsuit on, then find a pair of sturdy, sharp scissors and snip away.

Use the first leg or arm as a template for the second. For a cleaner look, don’t cut through knee patches. Finishing straight-cut edges isn’t usually necessary, but apply sealant to stitched seams. If the new sleeve ends feel too loose, fold them over and sew a hem for a tighter fit.

Got a macabre sense of humor? Make jagged cuts to simulate a shark bite and you'll have a tall tale for anyone who stares at your new old wetsuit.

Donate for reuse

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Age and minor-wear issues won’t bother a charitable organization that can reuse your wetsuit. ReSurf runs community clubs around the world to positively change the lives of children through surfing.

Warm Current holds free youth surf camps in the Pacific Northwest and also sends used wetsuits to youth development programs in Chile, Mexico and Peru.

Girls who would not otherwise have the opportunity to surf and experience the ocean are served by The Wahine Project, and AmpSurf helps disabled children, veterans and other adults feel the healing power of the sea through adaptive surfing.

Send it out to be upcycled

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Even the most tattered wetsuits can be upcycled into to something “new” and useful. Lava Rubber turns them into coasters, mats and spoon rests. Yoga mats from old wetsuits are the specialty of Suga, and if you send one in through Kassia+Surf, you get a discount on a new wetsuit.

Green Guru makes beverage koozies, and Neocombine creates bracelets. The colorful handplanes crafted by Enjoy repurpose both broken surfboards and used-up wetsuits.

Get creative

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With a pair of sharp scissors and a little imagination, you can fashion a variety of useful neoprene items from an old wetsuit. Trim a section of the torso or thigh to fit snugly around a plastic juice bottle or laundry detergent jug, and you’ll be able to have a warm-water rinse after surfing.

Cut the arms into rings to make bracelets, decorating them with beads, shells, paint or sparkles. A flat section of the wetsuit could become a new mousepad.

Follow these directions to make a camera case or small bag. Or chop the suit into small pieces you can spread on the ground as mulch. There are many paths for your washed-up wetsuit that don't lead to the dead end of a landfill.

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