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Fashionable wetsuits made with limestone

Dutch ‘water fashion’ brand Wallien offers colourful wetsuits made from neoprene made from limestone and produced using sustainable energy.

Neoprene was first invented on de 1930, made from oil and other petroleum based chemicals to produce chloroprene rubber chips, the first stage of neoprene production.

Rather than petroleum based chemicals, Wallien’s wetsuit material is based on calcium carbonate as found in limestone. The process was developed in the 1960s by the Japanese company Yamoto Corporation. They developed a technology to convert calcium carbonate from limestone into chloroprene rubber chips.

Limestone (CaCO3) is a sedimentary rock, composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite. Both of these are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate. Limestone is an abundant material, making up 10 per cent of all sedimentary rocks. After the conversion of the limestone into chloroprene, the material is polymerised, baked, cut into sheets and lined with nylon to give it strength.

Limestone neoprene has several advantages over oil-based neoprene, the most obvious one being that limestone neoprene is made without the use of any oil (with the exception of the nylon lining). In addition, limestone neoprene has a high micro-cell structure and is less dense than oil-based neoprene. Because of this, the material absorbs less water, is lighter in weight, warmer, more durable and stretchy.

The material is produced in a factory powered electricity generated by water, and waste heat is reused by a local eel farm.

Wallien uses this material to create fashionable and colourful garments made for use in water. In addition to the limestone neoprene, the company uses Lycra that consists of 75 per cent recycled materials. Lycra products with polyamide is made with Econyl, regenerated nylon yarn derived from pre- and post-industrial waste, such as discarded fishing nets and carpets. Other Lycra products are made with pre- and post-consumer plastic materials, like PET bottles.

Aside from sustainable materials, Wallien aims to limit transport pollution by working with manufactures close to their distribution warehouse in Amsterdam, and they only work with transparent manufacturers that provide good working conditions for their employees.

Photos: Wallien