Why you should not bin your old wetsuit...and many other things...
Every surfer knows the feeling of excitement when the charts are just right. We start researching the best spot where to go to, look at tides, wind, wave direction, sunrise, sunset... we generally plan this with almost an OCD precision a few days in advance, because we do not want to miss out. There's nothing more satisfying than when the forecast actually matches reality and we get our share of great waves. After that, the boards are packed, back and arms sore and we are heading back home to collapse in bed and relive that sweet day in our dreams.
I'm sure you can say the same about sailing, kiting and many other sports...
Few of us then think about the equipment we use. It's somehow the last thing on our mind. It's just things, right? They serve the purpose, when they're gone, we go get a new board, wetsuit or whatever; you name it. We live in a throw-away society.
However, there's few questions we should all be asking before buying, using and binning anything:
What is it made of?
Was it made ethically?
Who made it and where?
How long will I be able to use it, before it gives up on me?
How long will it take to fall apart in nature after I throw it away?
Is it going to harm the environment?
Is it ok to just put it in the bin?
Is there a way of reusing it?
Here are 2 major reasons, why you should be asking these questions:
1. Our gear takes a lifetime and more to decompose:
A Lifetime! Yup, it's right! Your wetsuit, sail or kite will most likely still be in landfill long after you are gone...
How long does it take for our gear to decompose?:
In case you are wondering, why the lack of precision in the tab above: I’ve spent almost 10 hours researching this topic. I asked for help from few of my friends with a degree in chemistry, engineering and environmental science. Despite all the effort we’ve put in, it was hard to find exact answers. The main reasons why there’s no simple answer to this question are:
Different manufacturers make their products from different materials. They might not fully disclose all the chemicals they use, and in what percentages.
Some products have several layers of different materials with different decomposition speeds. So it might decompose faster if you break it into several smaller pieces, compared to keeping it intact.
The environment in which the item decomposes can speed-up or slow down the decomposition process. And different materials have different “needs” to decompose. (For example steel decomposes fast in salt water, natural rubber decomposes in landfills quite fast due to different bacteria or fungi present.)
Anyway, I'd say it's enough for you to get the picture: It takes ages and it does not belong to landfill!
2. They create greenhouse gases as they decompose.
Like other materials, when they decompose, they release landfill gas, a toxic blend of gases that include carbon dioxide and methane. Carbon dioxide and methane are also known as "greenhouse gases". And we don't want to contribute to that, right?
These are two perfect reasons why to think twice before binning anything. Sports-gear, clothes, old furniture, flower pots, halloween mask, fridge, fridge magnet even...
So what to do with all these things that no longer serve their purpose?
First of all, reflect a little before buying anything. Ask yourself at least a few of the questions I've mentioned earlier. These should be an automatic part of any buying decision. Do you really need it? Can you get a better quality product which will last you longer? Can you get it second hand? Can you swap or borrow it?
Second, if it's a tiny bit damaged, why not try to fix it. We are constantly having our minds massaged by media and advertisers to convince us that we need a new car, a new phone, a jacket, a coffee maker, etc. The rise of short-term small purpose loans across the world goes hand in hand with this. The mentality is to buy it now, don't think about it, just do it, quick, the sale is on... quick, cheap, quick, cheap! Buying has never been easier. Only in recent days can we see a rise in the popularity of fixing and repairing old items. Sweden is leading the way with a tax break for those working in repair services. Hopefully it will serve as an example and other countries will follow! So if you can fix something, instead of buying new things, try to do so. You'll support local businesses, save money and help the environment.
Re-use it or donate it if it still works and you don't want to use it anymore. Is your surfboard a little bit dinged up for your liking? Does your wetsuit have few holes in it? Try offering it to a friend or donate it to a charity clothing store. You might make someone who can not afford a new shiny board super happy!
Recycle and Up-cycle it. If it's really gone, beyond repair and beyond any hope, seek out a local recycling centre or up-cycling business. Or why not learn how to up-cycle yourself. Pinterest is full of ideas on how to up-cycle your old stuff. It may just turn out to be a pleasant surprise when you learn what can be successfully up-cycled using a bit of imagination. Get into a recycling mindset. Sadly, most materials that end up in landfill are recyclable. Check out this article on how to become recycling expert :)
Hope this article was useful and motivating for you. To read more tips on how to live sustainably with less waste, sign up to our newsletter! ;)
If you want to up-cycle your old kites, sails and wetsuits please check how to donate it to us here or check out alternatives in your own region. There is plenty of amazing companies creating new things from what others consider a waste.
(Big thanks to my friends Linda and Ben for helping out with this article!)