Polyethylene terephthalate - commonly abbreviated to PET - is the most commonly used plastic on Earth. Last year 480 billion drinking bottles were made from PET. Less than half of them were recycled.
Recycling of PET has been problematic as it's often mixed with other types of waste. Yet as Nev Hyman, founder of Firewire and NevHouse told Swellnet last year, “Plastic isn't a waste, it's a resource. But you've gotta turn it into something that's really sexy for people to be bothered collecting the waste and recycling it.”
The market for sexy PET products is increasing with clothes, carpets, and cars already using PET fibres, and today we reached peak chic with the release of PET cloth for surfboards.
PET cloth is a collaboration between Sanded Australia and Colan Fibreglass. The PET is certified 100% post-consumer waste by Repreve, who not only stamp its bona fides but convert the bottles into fibre, then ship it to Australia where Colan weave it into cloth.
Unlike some fibreglass substitutes, such as flax or basalt, which are both shades of brown, PET cloth is closer to the look of fibreglass. However, it’s not totally clear, so while it’s invisible over the foam the weave can be seen over, say, the legrope plug.
The earth tones of other fibreglass substitutes have prevented mass market acceptance, however John Dowse from Sanded expects PET cloth to have a wide reach.
“[By using PET cloth] the big labels can stamp their environmental credentials on boards that don’t look any different to what they’re making now,” says John.
It’s likely that high-volume board makers will have to use a layer of regular fibreglass over PET cloth as sand throughs will fuzz up - similar to sand throughs on flax or hemp cloth - and potentially slow production, however smaller labels and the eco board makers could fully swap regular glass for PET cloth and still have a white board.
And the strength? The green tick means little if boards snap in half the time, so John commissioned a private laboratory, one that had worked with board labels in the past, to test various combinations of PET cloth.
The results showed a mix of 3 ounce PET cloth and Colan’s 4 ounce E-glass outperformed other variations. See graph above for those results. The tests were done using EPS core and epoxy resin for consistency across the samples.
As with all eco initiatives, good intentions fall by the wayside if they hit the back pocket, however the price point for PET cloth is relative to 4oz and 6oz cloths, selling for $8.95/metre, which in real terms, should add about $6 to a shortboard.
Last year, Firewire began using wool as a substitute for fibreglass, however this is the first time a fully recycled product - one that takes waste from oceans and landfill - has been used as surfboard cloth and taken to market.