Surf's up, again: Suez teams up with surf charity to launch novel wetsuit recycling scheme

The Wave Project, a surf therapy charity founded in 2010, and waste-management company SUEZ have teamed up to launch a pioneering scheme to recycle Cornwall's mountain of discarded wetsuits. 

People in wetsuits and with surfboards on a beach to promote Wave Project and Suez launch if wetsuit reuse scheme in CornwallThe innovative project, supported by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Good Growth Programme, aims to tackle the estimated 380 tonnes of non-recyclable neoprene generated each year. With over 50 per cent of this waste originating in Cornwall, the county has become a ‘wetsuit graveyard’.

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.

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. Here, a team will clean, and if necessary, mend the wetsuits for resale at the charity's high street store. Prices for these reused items will range from £20 - £60 – a fraction of the average £420 cost for a new wetsuit. Any wetsuits beyond repair will be upcycled into new products like bags, pillows and mats. Approximately 200 wetsuits per month are collected from the HWRCs by The Wave Project.

Diagram of a wetsuit recycling programmeClothing and textiles account for an estimated 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The initiative aims to establish a circular economy model for neoprene products, reducing the volume of non-recyclable waste sent for disposal or potentially harming marine ecosystems. The Wave Project and SUEZ plan to expand the project nationally if the pilot proves successful.

All profits will fund The Wave Project's programmes, which offer the world's first surf therapy course funded by a government health service. As an evidence-based intervention recognised by the NHS, local authorities, and psychiatric services, surf therapy has become an established form of therapeutic support for both mental and physical health. To date, over 10,000 young people have accessed The Wave Project's surf therapy courses.

Ramon Van de Velde, Chief Executive Officer at The Wave Project, 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. 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 said: "We're delighted to be continuing our partnership with The Wave Project to support young people in Cornwall. 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. We look forward to continuing our relationship with The Wave Project to transform lives through surf therapy."

The pilot project has been made possible thanks to £116,000 from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Good Growth Programme, £22,500 from SUEZ and £7,500 from The Wave Project.