Waste to Waves: Helping to “green” up surf starting with recycled styrofoam

Waste to Waves is encouraging surfers to play their part in helping to create “greener” surfboard materials by recycling waste packaging foam, aka styrofoam, so that it can be turned into eco-friendlier surfboard blanks.

Waste to Waves, an initiative developed by Sustainable Surf, operate drop off points in participating surf shops across Southern and Northern California. Styrofoam is collected in Waste to Waves branded boxes which are then taken to a plant for recycling.

Most recycling centres will not accept styrofoam, or Expanded Polystyrene foam (EPS), so Waste to Waves, alongside their partner Marko Foam are providing an opportunity for those within the Californian locality a chance to stop styrofoam ending up in landfill, turning it into useful products instead.

Waste to Waves partner Marko Foam handle the process of recycling styrofoam into reusable EPS regrind, using a densifier machine to grind up and melt the material, which is then molded into a brick of recycled foam.

Marko Foam send the bricks to a raw materials processor, which uses the material to produce a new recycled-content polystyrene bead, and then buy it  back to make their recycled Enviro-foam surfboard blanks.

Blanks are made into boards by surfboard shapers. Twenty pounds of foam can be recycled into about five surfboard blanks.

When the Waves to Water program first launched in 2013, getting surfers to adopt “green” practices was a challenge.

The toxic nature of surfboard manufacturing has been one of surfing’s biggest environmental impacts. Surfboards were originally constructed from natural materials such as redwood and balsa. But since the 1950s, surfboards have been constructed using foam and fiberglass, and wetsuits have been made from harmful petroleum-based products.

For years, boards built with bio-based materials and recycled foam carried with them a stigma of “disappointing performance”.

Truth is, recycled EPS blanks shape the same and surf the same as “regular” EPS foam blanks.

Professional surfer Mike Losness said: “Why isn’t surfing more green? We are out there in the ocean close to mother nature yet we are creating a surfboard that doesn’t breakdown.”

Nowadays surfers and manufacturers have become more aware of the impact of surf equipment and gear on the environment. Conscious surfers, such as Rob Machado and the wider Sustainable Surf movement, are helping to wake up their peers to the performance of eco-friendly boards. And the availability of eco-friendly surf products, including surfboards and wetsuits, is also increasing, as too is the choice.

As professional surfer Rob Machado says: “Most of the boards we make nowadays should be using sustainable materials. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t.”

Rosalind Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She is a writer specialising in sustainable life & style, music, entertainments and wellbeing. Rosalind also works as a spiritual life coach and intuitive advisor helping people to become who they truly are and manifest their heart & soul’s desires into their lives: www.rosalindmedea.com

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