Instead of the usual unsustainable neoprene in wetsuits, the Yulex Jane has yulex natural rubber, a sustainable and natural rubber. The wetsuit sits in the middle towards the upper end of wetsuit prices at $230. Ansea was quite transparent with the materials in the suit, even the unsustainable materials such as polyester. However, there was not much info about where the materials are originally from, just a vague statement saying the collections are produced domestically. Overall, Ansea is moving forward with sustainable materials, and is trying to improve and retain the same quality and sustainability in their products.
Most wetsuits are made of neoprene, which uses petroleum or limestone based rubber (both of which are nonrenewable). The Ansea wetsuit primarily uses yulex natural rubber (85%), which is a Forest Stewardship Council natural rubber. Natural rubber is not necessarily sustainable as many of the producers are small businesses that do not have the ability to implement sustainability practices. Due to the increase in rubber demand, large forest areas are converted to monocrop rubber farms. With the Forest Stewardship Council, however, the rubber only comes from plantations that preserve biodiversity and ecological integrity. The lining of the wetsuit is mainly polyester, which is a synthetic petroleum based fiber. Not only is it very carbon intensive, it does not biodegrade well. In fact, polyester is believed to be one of the largest contributors to microplastics in the oceans. Although there are alternatives to polyester, such as cotton and hemp, none are great for a water environment. The lining has polyester, but also a small amount of elastane to get the stretchy feel. Elastane, similar to polyester, is not biodegradable and adds to microplastics in the ocean.
The making of polyester requires copious amounts of water and heat resulting in about 70 million barrels of oil being used per year (Forbes). The production also requires the use of carcinogenic chemicals, which left untreated are highly damaging to the environment. Additionally, the majority of polyester production is in China, Indonesia and Bangladesh where the environmental regulations are less stringent than those in the US. The communities and watersheds in the surrounding communities are often poorer and less equipped to deal with environmental issues. Elastane is also made from nonrenewable fossil fuels. Elastane’s creation process is chemical heavy and is known to be hazardous to human health and the environment. Polyurethane, the precursor to elastane, is a known carcinogen (causes cancer), and the other steps include using synthetic dyes that are notorious for being one of the most polluting parts of textile manufacturing. They can seep into nearby watersheds, ruining aquatic environments as well as human drinking water. Most of the Yulex Jane’s spong is yulex natural rubber, but a small portion is still synthetic rubber. This synthetic rubber starts with a hydrocarbon such as coal or oil. It is then refined to form naphtha and combined with natural gas to form a monomer. The monomers are subject to a polymerization process, which creates a string of polymers. A chain of polymers results in latex or a rubbery substance that can be processed into more complex rubber products
Ansea champions its use of Yulex Natural Rubber, which is sourced from sustainable natural rubber plants. They also use econyl, which is regenerated nylon of great quality that can also be recycled, recreated and remoulded again and again. Although there are materials that are not sustainable, such as the polyester, it is listed up front. This transparency is really great, but it would be preferable to see more information about where they get all of their materials and the locations of their factories. They say there is domestic production, but they did not necessarily state that every step of the process is located in the US. Materials that are outsourced to various countries can raise red flags, especially if it is not explicitly stated anywhere. Worker’s justice and environmental regulations could be much worse than the regulations in the US. Additionally, the materials need to be shipped overseas, leading to more unnecessary emissions.