Patagonia’s New Plant-Based Wetsuits
Excerpts from an article by Mike Lewis
In mid-November, Patagonia announced that after a four-year search for a material that would reduce the environmental impact of its wetsuits, it was officially releasing suits made from Yulex, a bio-rubber made from the Guayule plant.
Patagonia Surf Director Jason McCaffrey. “Yulex produces agricultural-based latex allergy-friendly biomaterials for the manufacturing of medical, consumer, industrial and bioenergy products. It needs very little water and no pesticides to be produced. It also had great stretch, recovery, UV resistance and durability. It also doesn’t have the super sensitizing proteins that a lot of people are allergic to in synthetic rubbers.
The technology involves homogenizing the entire hedged guayule shrub. Rubber is found primarily in the bark and must be released in the processing. Branches are ground, releasing intact rubber particles and creating an aqueous suspension. The suspension is then placed in a centrifuge for separation. The rubber portion of the mixture is culled off the top, much the same way that cream is skimmed off milk, and purified.
Lab tests show that it has 30% more stretch than the neoprene we use in our current R2 suit. The rubber smells like eucalyptus or to some people pine trees. The Yulex rubber is harvested from the bark of the plant, and the sap gets mixed in with it during the conversion process.
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