Clear resin with a green tinge
It's been over ten years since Clark Foam closed its doors in the US and ended the PU foam hegemony. Since then the number of non-PU boards have been growing with unoffical figures placing them at 30% of the worldwide total. The majority of these being EPS foam and epoxy resin.
With a growing interest in epoxy, manufacturers have been improving the product, the latest development being bio-based epoxy resin.
Regarding the green equation, a straight comparison between epoxy and polyester resins leans heavily to the former - epoxy rash notwithstanding, just ask Josh Dowling. Epoxy resins release less VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), they don't require acetone washups, and they're not flammable. Also, epoxy resins can contain bio-based additives without any negative effect on strength, which brings us to Eco-X epoxy.
Eco-X hits the market shortly. It's an epoxy resin distributed by Shapers in Australia that contains 20% bio-based additives - and no, it isn't coloured green, the accompanying photo isn't to be taken literally.
Eco-X has run the gamut of testing by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) so it contains what it says, the certification confirming at least 20% of the product comes from renewable plant, animal, marine, or forestry stock.
Though it's yet to be sold to the public Eco-X has been tested by board makers. Hylton van Wyk, co-owner at Sel Surf in Queensland, ran tests with Eco-X before slipping it into production.
"It's the same texture as other epoxies, and the same strength too," says Hylton. Sel Surf glass boards under their own label but also for other companies too, and Hylton explains that Eco-X gets used on boards for particular consumers.
"More labels are pushing green credentials and that's when we use Eco-X," says Hylton. "It's probably 10% of our output at the moment but it's always growing."
Brett Giddings works for Sustainable Surf, the organisation that advocate the ECOBOARD stamp of approval, and he sees the same dynamic. "We've also seen a lot of growth in the number of shapers joining the [ECOBOARD] program in the last 18 months, especially in Europe, Asia and in Australia. There are now more than 120 brands making ECOBOARDS."
Boards qualify by using materials that demonstrably lower their carbon footprint, such as recycled foam blanks or bio-based resins.
Since 2012, when the ECOBOARD program began, Sustainable Surf have verified over 130,000 boards, a number that - like boards made from EPS/epoxy - is expected to grow in coming years.
Ostensibly, Clark Foam shut its doors due to environmental red tape encroaching on the business, the closure proving a boon for EPS/epoxy makers in the US. However, Australian PU/polyester board makers face no such bureacratic threat, yet the market is moving slowly, organically, toward the greener end of the market as evidenced by the popularity of manufacturers such as Firewire and Sunova, and the increasing use of 'green' resins.
Unlike the US, it's a consumer led shift and one that will ultimately benefit, not just the environment, but also the bottom line: the more demand for products such as Eco-X, the cheaper the finished product will be.
(Stay tuned for a longer article about the ECOBOARD project on Swellnet)