What if the oyster shells from your last New Year's Eve party ended up as wetsuits? This is the challenge taken up by the company Soöruz in La Rochelle.
Soöruz is committed to a global approach that also considers the end of life of its wetsuits.
One hundred and fifty thousand metric tons of oyster shells are thrown in the trash every year in France. But all is not lost: over the last few years, an industry that collects and crushes waste shells has developed on a territorial scale. In Charente-Maritime, Ovive has become the leader in this market, recycling some 3,000 metric tons of oyster shells per year.
Once crushed, the oyster and other shellfish shells get a second life: Malàkio makes trivets, boards, and pots out of them; Etnisi tiles and furniture; Alegina porcelain; and others even produce fertilizers or poultry feed – and don’t forget Decathlon’s surfing booties!
We’re staying in the surf with the latest innovation to date: in La Rochelle, they are making oyster shells into wetsuits. An innovation thought up by Soöruz, a company created in 1999 that specializes in producing and distributing equipment for board sports.
With substantial R&D investments over several years, its two founders, Yann Dalibot and Mathieu Barat – both former top-level windsurfers - have been working to reduce the environmental impact of their products.
Their collection includes wetsuits made of bamboo and recycled polyester; another is made of 100% naturalprene1. All of which are good alternatives to neoprene, a petroleum derived material used in the composition of the vast majority of wetsuits.
A new material
Since 2019, a new wetsuit has been added to Soöruz’ eco-designed range: the Green Line, made from oyster shell powder and cane sugar. To achieve it, the two entrepreneurs had to develop a new material. Known as oysterprene, it is a type of neoprene incorporating local oyster shells in its composition to replace limestone, a neoprene ingredient that is quarried.
This ecological innovation doesn’t change anything for all the surfers, wakeboarders, kitesurfers and wakesurfers. The wetsuit has the same characteristics as a traditional one: same weight, same thickness, same warmth.
Soöruz has made its project part of a more global approach that also considers the end of life of its wetsuits. Since 2020, riders can drop off their old wetsuits in one of the brand's stores. They will be shredded on the spot and used to stuff cushions or boxing bags. The ultimate ambition of Yann Dalibot and Mathieu Barat? To offer 100% eco-designed products that include end-of-life management.
1 A wetsuit made of natural rubber obtained from rubber latex, called NaturalPrene or Yulex. This new raw material is a mix of several natural and recyclable elements (natural rubber, sugar cane, vegetable oil, oyster shell powder).
CREDITS: Main picture © Sooruz