An update from Patagonia about their attempts to make a more sustainable wetsuit:
“Surfers have been relying on neoprene for more than 60 years, but it’s a nonrenewable material with an energy-intensive manufacturing process. In 2008, we started experimenting with renewable natural rubber to help us reduce our reliance on petrochemicals.
Our R&D work with hevea rubber eventually revealed another benefit that was just as important—because the polymer was produced in trees instead of factories, using solar energy instead of generated electricity, up to ~80% less climate-altering CO2 was emitted in the manufacturing process when compared to conventional neoprene.”
They create a rubber suitable for use instead of neoprene by using a process called Yulex emulsion, which removes impurities.