Project to stop Cornwall becoming wetsuit graveyard

The Wave Project and SUEZ have launched the Wetsuit Reuse Scheme to help reduce wetsuit pollution and raise funds for the charity
-Credit: (Image: Wave Project)

With tonnes of wetsuits ending up in landfill every year, one charity is hoping the notoriously hard to recycle items can be turned into a force for good. It is estimated that some 380 tonnes of non-recyclable neoprene are generated each year. Thanks to Cornwall's premier reputation as a holiday destination and as the UK's surfing capital, some 50 per cent of this waste originates in the county making it a wetsuit graveyard.

Now one children's charity thinks it has found a solution that will be good for the planet and will help raise vital funds so it can carry on helping people through surf therapy. The Wave Project, which is based in Newquay, is the world's first surf therapy course funded by a Government health service. It has now received funding to tackle wetsuit pollution not just in Cornwall but beyond.

The Wetsuit Reuse Scheme has received £116,000 from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Good Growth Programme, a £137m local investment fund managed by Cornwall Council and funded by the UK Government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund. The project sees the Wave Project work with recycling company SUEZ to collect discarded wetsuits so they can be repaired and sold on in the charity's shop or upcycled into new items.

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Under the scheme, dedicated wetsuit recycling bins are placed at Cornwall Council household waste recycling centres, managed by SUEZ. The discarded suits are collected and transported to a brand-new repair workshop in Newquay. A team will clean, and if necessary, mend the wetsuits for resale at the charity's high street store.

The Wave Project said its prices range from £20 - £60 which is a fraction of a new wetsuit, meaning visitors and locals alike will no longer need to spend hundreds of pounds on something they might not use that often. The Wave Project said any wetsuits beyond repair will be upcycled into new products like bags, pillows and mats.

Ramon Van de Velde, chief executive officer at The Wave Project said the pre-loved wetsuit scheme follows increasing urgency around solving the environmental crisis caused by fast fashion and throwaway culture. With clothing and textiles estimated to account for up to 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, initiatives like this offer a blueprint for a more circular economy for specialist gear like wetsuits.

Ramon said that if successful, the project will be rolled out nationwide, preventing tonnes of non-recyclable waste from ending up in landfill or polluting the oceans.

He said: "The Wave Project improves the health and wellbeing of children throughout the UK with surf therapy and the healing powers of the ocean. This pre-loved wetsuit scheme not only raises vital funds to enable the charity to help more children.

The Wave Project and SUEZ have launched the Wetsuit Reuse Scheme to help reduce wetsuit pollution and raise funds for the charity
The Wave Project and SUEZ have launched the Wetsuit Reuse Scheme to help reduce wetsuit pollution and raise funds for the charity -Credit:The Wave Project

"It also makes the sea more accessible to people who can’t otherwise afford wetsuits, and of course importantly takes neoprene out of the waste cycle. This really is a win-win-win. We are really grateful to the Government’s Good Growth Fund and SUEZ for providing the funding to kick-start this project. If the Cornwall pilot proves successful, we hope to roll it out nationwide.”

Craig Mouatt, processing contract manager for SUEZ recycling and recovery UK in Cornwall, added: “As a triple bottom line business we are always looking for innovative ways to protect the planet whilst supporting the communities we serve, and through this initiative we can help raise funds to support the important work the Wave Project does whilst enhancing and protecting the environment."